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?
Description taken from Goodreads.
If you were just as turned-off by Everything, Everything as I was, Under Rose-Tainted Skies may just be for you. Now, I had a strong skepticism of it when I first picked it up. I’ve read a good amount of contemporary/realistic lit lately, and a pretty cover has hidden a bland, cardboard-cutout novel plenty of times before.
However, from the beginning, I found myself engrossed in Gornall’s compelling narrative and Norah’s voice as a character. Her sarcasm and dry humor was legitimately funny, and fresh instead of cynical. Norah seemed like someone I could know and be good friends with in real life, and I felt her pains, joys, pains, and triumphs.
Parts of the book even struck me as a more lighthearted version of Meg Haston’s Paperweight, which was one of my favorite novels of 2015. As always, I loved the positive relationship between Norah and her therapist, but I was still surprised by the great message at the end of the story. It showed me that Under Rose-Tainted Skies is far from your typical YA contemporary. It’s sensitive and smart, recognizing what a complex and difficult issue mental illness is, showing us the girl who is so much more than a label, and gently giving a standpoint on mental illness without feeling like the entire thing is a thinly-veiled agenda.
I was also impressed by the romance. Yes, it was lacking in many aspects. It lacked the true depth and flavor of the rest of the novel, but I would argue that it wasn’t much of a loss. The story is well-paced and fits nicely within the span of its moderate 320 pages. Norah and Luke are cute and work well as a sub-plot, but what consistently takes center-stage is Norah’s growth and development. I wasn’t expecting that at all, and personally, I found Under Rose-Tainted Skies to be everything I had wanted Everything, Everything to be.
Overall, only time will tell how memorable this one is, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it this time around, and I would recommend it to anyone looking into sweet contemporary romance with a more serious focus. One of the better contemps of recent memory. 3.5 stars.