I read pretty much exclusively fiction, but even so, a good majority of the books I read are for research purposes, with the aim of informing and improving my writing. I might pick up a book that I think would be a good comp title, reread a book to study an author’s voice or methods for conjuring a specific mood, or even read a new release just to stay in touch with current literary trends. All this is why I basically abandoned reading fantasy last year—I just had a lot of books to read for research, the majority of them great, but none of them fantasy.
So it was for research purposes that Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies came onto my radar. I was considering including a character with agoraphobia in my new “Beauty and the Beast and aliens” WIP, so I wanted to get a sense of how this condition is tackled in fiction, especially in YA fiction. Gornall herself drew on her own experience and struggles in writing this book, and it shows—there is nothing in this book that is not raw and authentic. I read it in less than twenty-four hours—simply could not put it down. The MC is absolutely compelling, a character you can’t help but root for as she deals with OCD, anxiety, and agoraphobia, all while building a relationship with the handsome, awkward boy next door who sees past her mental health struggles. Voice is everything in this book, and Gornall lets us stay tapped into the MC’s thoughts like we’re a neuron in her brain. She’s flawed, funny, likable, and, above all, real. You can see how she comes to have the thought patterns she does—I found this fascinating, especially because I recognized some of my own unhealthy thought patterns taken to the next level by the MC. It really gave me pause and helped me examine my own head space.
You might be wondering if a book spent pretty much entirely in the MC’s house would grow stale, but nothing here is boring. In fact, this is one of those rare reads where I finished it and felt that sad, lonely ache, where you just want to go back to page one and start the story over again. Suffice it to say that this is a five star read.
I also want to briefly laud the author’s treatment of the MC’s relationship with her mother. I adore realistic parents in YA, and the relationship here was just perfect—nothing forced or scripted.
In the end, I did make the decision that an agoraphobic character isn’t the right fit for my book. Anxiety or OCD might make an appearance, not sure yet, but definitely not agoraphobia. And I am so happy to have been able to read this book to make an informed decision about that. I will absolutely be picking up future works by this author, and I recommend Under Rose-Tainted Skies for… everyone! Everyone should read this book! Right now!