Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health
Year Published: 2016 (UK) 2017 (US)
My Rating: ★★★★1/2
I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is a non-spoiler review.
TRIGGER WARNING for self-harm and depression.
This was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2017 and boy oh boy was I right in anticipating this. The reason I was anticipating this book was because the blurb indicated it was a story about a main character with agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s home or ‘safe space’), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), extreme anxiety, and depression. These are all things that I have suffered from, so to see a book that was coming out that explored all of these things in one character really had me intrigued. I wasn’t disappointed.
In a nutshell, this YA contemporary follows our main character Norah, a 17 (?) year old teenager living in California who suffers from all of the above mentioned. The reader follows her day to day life and how she deals with the illness she suffers from. It explores her relationship with her mother, as well as her therapist. There is also, of course, the love interest as well. The love interest comes in the form of Luke, a boy who has just moved in next door and is intrigued by Norah: the girl who sits in the open doorway of her house, watching the outside world while her mind keeps her trapped inside her house.
Right off the bat, hearing that there is a love interest to someone who has agoraphobia, or any other invisible illness, may make a reader hesitant. Is this just another book about the love interest fixing the mental illness of the main protagonist? Because that in itself is very unrealistic.
You may think this at first, but this book is far from that. The love interest in this book definitely does not fix Norah’s illness. In fact, she still has a very long way to go by the time the end of the book comes about. What he does do, and what her mother and therapist also do in this book, is help Norah deal with the day to day hurdles she has to jump through. They help her grow.
What really amplifies Norah’s internal struggles in the book is the knowledge that the author herself has suffered from all of these things. This therefore makes it an own-voices book (a book in which the author identifies with the same characteristics of the main character). Norah’s story suddenly becomes all the more real with this piece of knowledge and it really authenticates the story in this way. It authenticates that people with this mental illness think about things such as the following daily:
-Wondering if this illness will ever let them have a life
-Thinking every worst situation possible will happen if they step outside their door
-Overthinking every word a person has communicated to them
-Overthinking pretty much everything in general to the point where it makes them sick
We, the readers, discover that Norah thinks about these things daily. Her struggle with these things, and slowly but surely overcoming them only to find something else blocking her path to recovery, is what this book is really all about. The romance is a cute subplot, but again, it is not the main focal point of the story.
The only thing I would have to complain about this book was that a lot of the pages that contained Norah’s internal thoughts were overflowing with metaphors and similes. A lot of what Norah would be thinking about was compared to something else. I understand that it is hard to write a book that comprises mostly of the narrators thoughts without metaphors and similes, but I feel as though the book would have benefited more if there was less of this.
Other than that, I highly enjoyed this novel. It, in my opinion, should be required reading of any teenager in high school. It really opens up the subject of mental illness and even shows that it is more common than one may think. Students, and pretty much any one of any age, will learn that they are not alone in reading this book…and I think that’s one of the most important things to remember when you have a mental illness: that you are not alone.