This book popped up on my Goodreads account as a recommended read. A cursory glance at the plot (and, lets be honest, that gorgeous cover) made me literally yell out across the office to our YA buyer to put the book on order.
Weeks later, it was out of the box from our processor and I had my hands all over it. I have read so few stories that deal with anxiety, mental illness, the fine line between depression and comfort in solitude. Nothing has ever been on the level of this book for me.
I honestly don’t have enough positive words to talk it about it.
Norah, the main character, cannot leave the her house. This is not like Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon where the main character can’t leave her house because she is allergic to the outside world. For Norah, the entire impediment lies in her mind. She used to live a “normal” life. She went out in the world, attended public school, had friends. But one day her anxiety hit an all time high which led to a panic attack at school.
The school picks up a first years post-incident and Norah is only experiencing the lives of her former friends through social media. She has not truly been out of the house (expect to go to doctor’s appointments) in years. It tells the painfully honest story of someone whose friends drop off as they understand fewer and fewer things about Norah. Friends who started as supportive fell off because they just couldn’t get their minds around the idea that Norah was not getting any “better” and would never resume the life she once had.
In a plot point similar to Yoon’s book, Norah’s new neighbor begins to change that. Luke sees that she is struggling and, instead of looking away, decides to reach out a helping hand. He does not see Norah as broken or brittle or too complicated. He sees that she is funny and smart and brave and beautiful. They form this incredible bond that’s really encouraging to read about.
However, Norah begins to realize that Luke doesn’t understand the full scope of her anxiety. He is optimistic that she might one day be able to face the world. More upsetting to Norah, she’s scared that he is sacrificing the things that he is passionate about and all of the fun that comes along with being popular in high school to hang out with her…alone…in her house…with her mom in the next room. Norah begins to doubt that he will remain truly happy with her and instead of letting him resent her for the remainder of their relationship, she chooses to confront it.
In the end there is this total plot twist that serves as an inciting incident for Norah’s growth as a character (while still remaining a person living with mental illness – it is not magically cured) and just too much cuteness. The grown ups in this book at 100% everything I need them to be. They aren’t blind to the events of the book, nor are they hopelessly optimistic. They are such real characters.
If you couldn’t tell, I just absolutely loved this book and can’t stop recommending that other people read it. I inhaled it in a night because it was just so refreshing to read. 5/5 stars.