Book Review | Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall


Rating |3-stars

Genre | YA, Contemporary

Publisher | Chicken House

Publication Date | 2016

Format | Paperback

I’m Norah, and my life happens
within the walls of my house, where
I live with my mom, and this evil
overlord called Agoraphobia.

Everything’s under control. It’s not rosy –
I’m not going to win any prizes for Most
Exciting Life or anything, but at least I’m
safe from the outside world, right?

Wrong. This new boy, Luke, just moved
in next door, and suddenly staying safe
isn’t enough. If I don’t take risks, how will
I ever get out – or let anyone in?

Under Rose-Tainted Skies revolves around Norah’s struggles to live a life with a mixture of mental health problems; agoraphobia, OCD and anxiety. She hasn’t left the house in years, with the exception of trips to the doctor’s. Norah’s life is limited to what she can experience online, and through the plethora of books she owns – nothing more.

Where do I start?

For me this has been an interesting read, and I quite enjoyed it. Norah is snarky, sarcastic, funny and maybe a little bit morbid. But, that’s what made me like her. However, there are times when she’s far too sarcastic that it made me physically cringe.

Then there’s the mum, overprotective but what mum isn’t? I really like Norah’s relationship with her mum. I don’t even care that Norah makes comments on how she’s that girl whose best friends with her mum, because I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It just shows that you have a great relationship with your mother.

LUKE… I can’t decide whether he’s a realistic portrayal of guys or that he’s just too good to be true. It’s great that he shows an interest in Norah, and that he somewhat understands her circumstances. But I find him, a little bit too much of an ideal guy. Of course, there are real men like that out in the real world. But, I just can’t imagine a boy his age to be this understanding. And it did show through, that he isn’t as understanding as Norah (or the author) was making him out to be. In fact, there are several or a million times he showed how selfish he is. For instance, he keeps mentioning things that they could do or where they could go once she’s recovered. It’s a bit inconsiderate, in my opinion. It is nice that he is thinking ahead, but he also needed to realise that Norah isn’t even at the stage where she can go to her garden confidently without a panic attack.

This was an excellent book, especially towards the beginning. The way Norah’s agoraphobia was portrayed in this novel was realistic, in the sense that even if your survival is at stake sometimes, this mental illness can get the better of you. However, as brilliant as it was I also have my reservations.

Although the portrayal of Norah’s mental health issues were more or less realistic – I felt that the novel still romanticised her struggle with OCD. What I am getting at is, although she is debilitated by her mental health issues in the beginning of the novel – I don’t think it will take her less than a couple of months to be okay with holding hands, just because a cute boy has taken an interest in her. Of course it is different for different people. But, this book has been claimed as honest towards mental illness. However, being cured because of a new guy next door? It isn’t exactly a healthy way of showing hopefulness with regard to being cured from such mental illness. It isn’t good for those who may or may not be suffering from said mental illness to believe that a guy (or girl) is the answer to their illness. Because it isn’t.

I have already ranted about Luke and Norah’s relationship, but here’s more. I really thought that this was going to have a more realistic and bittersweet ending, in terms of the romance. It would have made a great portrayal of how relationship like theirs cannot work the way they wanted it to be. There’s too much contradiction in what Luke says he understands and his actions. Norah, also recognises the reality of it, but has opted to be a more optimistic than I have been.


I think YA novels that focuses on mental illness has become an important part of contemporary literature. It helps with informing teenagers and young adults about mental illness, in a way medical pamphlets are not able to. However, there are also times where they can be a little bit unrealistic with the portrayal. Nevertheless, these novels are still important in sharing awareness.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies was a good read, and I did enjoy it. However, it didn’t made me cry or feel emotionally invested in the characters. I didn’t connect with them, not their stories at all. But I still think that it was a good story, and informative one in terms of how agoraphobia really is, and how it isn’t just the one mental illness that an sufferer have, but it also comes with certain mental health issues, such as panic disorders, anxiety and OCD.

I did notice that there are extreme similarities to that of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Oddly, I liked Under Rose-Tainted Skies better. Although I do think this book romanticised some aspects of mental illness, and the premise that a guy can change your whole life scenario, I’m more inclined to like URTS better than the former.

This is one of the books I would recommend people read.




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