Under-Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall is an own-voices book about a teenager with agoraphobia and OCD. It was my pick for the Mental Health Book Bingo ‘MC with 2 or more mental illnesses’ square.
At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.
But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.
Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?
Under Rose-Tainted Skies has everything that I could possibly want – amazing mental health representation, a main character with whom I can deeply connect, and a super cute romance. Seriously, if I was made into a book, this would be pretty damn close.
While I don’t have agoraphobia or OCD myself, I have read reviews by friends who do, and they have overwhelmingly said that the representation is spot on. Unlike many of the other books I’ve read about agoraphobia, Norah doesn’t magically recover and skip off into the outside world, which I really appreciated. She also has anxiety, and that was where I could really connect with her. The constant worrying and the accidentally saying awkward things felt so incredibly real.
See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three-day migraine. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.
I thought that the romance with Luke was incredibly sweet, although he was perhaps a little bit too perfect. I can’t personally imagine any 17-year-old boy being so understanding, but I’m willing to go with it because I liked the book so much.
Overall, I’m so incredibly happy that I read this book. It warrants all the praise that it has received, and although some scenes were difficult to read, it was 100% worth it.
Trigger warnings: panic attacks, graphic descriptions of self-harm, blood