Monday, 18 March 2019

REVIEW: Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

Pages: 249
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Genre: Contemporary
TW: Agoraphobia, panic attacks 
Release Date: May 26th 2016
Buy the Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn't left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom--even if his kingdom doesn't extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She'll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon's solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon's trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.
I adore YA books that deal with mental health. I actively seek them out and consume them as often as I can. Partly because it's hugely important to expose young people to the topic of mental health, and also because it's a topic very close to my heart due to my own issues that I face every day. But I'm not here to give you a run-down of my own mental health cocktail, so let's get into this review. Warning: I’m going to include spoilers here because I don’t think I can get my thoughts across on this one without discussing the ins and outs.

This story splits between the characters of Solomon and Lisa. Solomon hasn’t left his house in years due to his crippling agoraphobia, and Lisa wants to be a psychologist, so she decides to use Solomon as her project to get to college. To get straight to the point, Solomon falls in love with Lisa’s boyfriend, Clark. Lisa, though heartbroken, believes Clark is in love with Solomon too and tells Solomon this without any real evidence (her logic? He won’t sleep with her, so he must be gay!!!!), encouraging him to admit his feelings. Here’s where things get even worse. Clark is most definitely straight and doesn’t have romantic feelings for Solomon, and he and Lisa then sort out their problems. Along the way, Lisa literally uses Solomon and his mental health for an essay as she attempts to ‘fix’ him. Yeah. That’s…that’s really the plot.  

Solomon was wonderful. Honestly, by the end of the book, he was the sole reason I was still reading. Characters with mental health problems like his are so important for sharing what it’s like to live with anxiety for people who might not understand it, and to help people with anxiety find themselves in the stories they read. But in saying that, I don’t think his mental health was addressed properly within the story. I loved him as a character, I just hated the story he was a part of.

Now, Lisa. At first, I simply thought she was a bit na├»ve and that she was going to learn that her use of Solomon for a project was wrong. Whilst she did learn *some* things, she didn’t come anywhere close to accepting just how many mistakes she made. The line at the end about Lisa 'luring' a gay teen out of hiding with her attractive boyfriend? Yes, I understand that part was written into Lisa's essay, admitting to herself that she'd been stupid. BUT YIKES. Just reading sentences like that made me cringe. The attitude Lisa had in general to everything that happened (or didn't, as the case may be) with Solomon and Clark just gave me so many bad vibes.

I liked Clark enough, I just don’t understand why the author felt the need to include him in the way that he did. I’m not necessarily stating that I wanted him to reciprocate Solomon’s feelings. I adore platonic relationships in YA and it’s super important to have male best friends who love each other without there having to be anything romantic between them. But this whole situation just didn’t sit right with me.

The good? Few and far between for me, but I will say that the one thing this book seriously nailed was the Reed family. The relationship between this family was written beautifully. I'm so used to reading about tense and awful families that it made such a refreshing change for Solomon to have a solid support system at home.

This book really had the gay character fall for the straight character, only for the straight couple to have a chance at a happy ending by the end of the story, whilst the gay character was left with the knowledge that someone got his hopes up over a straight guy. WHY ARE WE NOT OVER THE GAY GUY FALLING FOR THE STRAIGHT FRIEND TROPE? Yes, I know this is a thing that happens, people can't help falling in love with other people. But do we really still have to do that in a book like this? It just wasn’t necessary, and it wasn’t enjoyable to read. Why did Solomon have to fall in love with Clark in the first place? Just because he's gay, he has to fall in love with the other male character? He needs a romantic sub-plot to get him over his mental health problems???? This book could have simply focused on Solomon’s mental health, and Lisa attempting to help him. I didn’t actually see the point in Clark AT ALL.

I genuinely wish I had more good things to say about this book because I never like coming online to discuss the negatives, but with a book like this, I think it’s important for me to share what I personally feel was wrong within it.  

Royal Rating: 

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