Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall
read in February 2017
I’ve heard You don’t look mentally ill at least a half a dozen times in the past four years, a couple of those times from my former friends. I blame the media, stereotyping “mental illness” and calling every murderer since Manson crazy. People always seem to be expecting wide eyes and a kitchen knife dripping with blood.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is about Norah who struggles with agoraphobia and OCD. The premise of this is similar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, but without the ableist representation (you can find more information about that here). This book is an #ownvoices story because Louise Gornall, the author, is also agoraphobic. Two reviewers who struggle with mental illnesses similar to Norah’s agree that the representation is accurate (as you can read here and here).
This book also deals with self-harm, eating disorders and depression, so be aware of that in case that triggers you. I did find the descriptions of self-harm and fainting relatable.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me to love this. Contemporary romances are not my favourites and Under Rose-Tainted Skies is no exception. Thankfully, however, there was no instalove and mental illness isn’t “cured” once the characters fall in love.
Furthermore, I didn’t love the writing style. Because of Norah’s mental illness, she gets distracted easily during conversations. Which interrupted the conversations quite often. While I completely understand why the author did that, it wasn’t enjoyable to read. Once I finished a chapter, I put the book down for several minutes. This book just couldn’t keep me intrigued. I also spotted some spelling mistakes and things didn’t add up. Luke’s phone was being fixed, yet he was using his phone to talk to someone. This didn’t cause any major problems while reading, but I did find it annoying because it occurred more than once.
My main complaint has to be the lack of female friendships. Girls are called “chicks” multiple times and Amy, the only female character we learn about besides Norah’s mother, is basically described as a rich, blonde, popular bimbo. Naturally I understand that Norah doesn’t allow a lot of people in her life, but I would think that the internet could be a solution for that. If she were to make friends with people online, perhaps that wouldn’t trigger her agoraphobia.
Even though I didn’t love this book, I’m thankful it exists. The quote I used at the beginning proves there are stigmas of mental illness, so it is important that books represent it in an accurate way. Still, I wish more books focussed on recovery instead of primarily the struggles that are caused by a mental illness. Books like Under Rose-Tainted Skies end on a positive note, but the rest of the book is filled with anxiety, depression, etc. Which is okay, because those stories have to be told, but I wish there were as many books out there that focus on recovery. I’d for instance rather read a book about someone who is recovering from anorexia than someone who struggles with it throughout a book and only seeks help at the end.
conclusion: Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with mental illnesses or people who want to read an accurate portrayal of one.