It’s not a secret anymore, books about mental illnesses are important, and lately they have been taking the front row in lots of bookshops and in lots of bloggers’ hearts. If some books manage to write a decent portrayal of complex illnesses, some others romanticize the whole thing and sometimes even manage to find unrealistic cures to it all. But we all know life’s not that easy. In Highly Illogical Behaviour, the author manages to write realistic characters and struggles, and he manages to show us a real story about mental illness, friendship, overcoming your issues and, most of it all, he makes everything feel real.
A CHARACTER-DRIVEN STORY
“We’re just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human.”
On one side, we have Solomon. He doesn’t get out of his house, ever. He’s agoraphobic. If this whole idea of staying in one house reminded me of the book, Everything, Everything, the story as a whole was completely on different focuses, with different characters and issues, and ultimately this is what made me love the book so much. It felt true, real, and unique in its own way. On the other side, we have Lisa. She doesn’t even know Solomon, but somehow she wants to “fix” him, in order to write a brilliant paper to get into a psychology program at university. Two completely different characters collide in this story. Highly Illogical is not a plot-driven, but much rather a character-driven story.
REAL CHARACTERS, STRUGGLES AND OWN VOICES
“She knew it was weird that she’d reached out to him the way she had. But she also knew that there were a lot of people in the world who regretted never doing the things they felt were right because they were afraid of seeming strange or crazy. Lisa wouldn’t settle for that sort of mediocre existence, one bound by invisible social cues. And she had a good feeling that someone like Solomon Reed would appreciate that.”
Told from both Lisa and Solomon’s point of view, we get two different stories, personalities, goals and daily struggles. If they collide more than once by slowly becoming friends and increasing each other’s presence in their lives, they each, from the start and until the very last page, had their own voice, which I appreciated so, so much. Solomon’s insecure, not really sure how to talk to other people after being only with his parents for so long. He’s anxious about the whole world outside, but yet he managed to create his own little bubble inside of the house. He still has dreams, and everything about his character felt real. It’s always a bit tricky to describe how characters with a mental illness are feeling, but I thought that the author managed to write that pretty decently, with accurate and gripping descriptions of his own struggles, his panic attacks and his own fears. Ultimately, this is what made me enjoy the book so much: how real the character felt. Not only because of his struggles, but because of his whole personality, his way of thinking and reacting to others.
Lisa’s a whole other story. Right from the description of the character, and in the first pages, I thought I wouldn’t like her, at all. She is stubborn, kind of miss-know-it-all at times and really selfish. However, I found out behind her shell some likeable traits of her personality, like her underlying insecurities, which made me grow fond of her as I read. The third actor in this story was Clark, Lisa’s boyfriend, and he definitely brought the story to a whole other level. Not because the love story overshadowed everything, for once, but because he brought his friendship to Solomon as well, his support, and was a great addition to Lisa and Solomon’s duo in the story, even if we didn’t get to read it from his point of view.
FRIENDSHIP ABOVE EVERYTHING
“ As smart as I am, it took a boy stuck in his house to teach me that sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are at all. It only matters whos with you.”
Unlike lots of contemporaries, where the love interest is erasing everything else, or even worse, where the love interest plot-line manages to take over the importance of talking about mental illness, loves cures everything and all….this didn’t happen here, and I was so, so thankful for it. There were obviously some love stories issues, with the three main characters of the story, but it remained secondary, giving depth and meaning to everyone’s relationship but not taking the place of what really mattered here: Solomon’s story. Friendship was above everything, and for once, it felt GOOD. But since apparently I can’t help myself, I will say something about love: Lisa and Clark’s relationship was one of the most realistic teenagers’ relationships I have read. I’m not going to spoil you guys anything, but it was definitely a nice change.
Friendship, love and a bit of good parenting, with parents being there, supportive, kind of lost at times yet wanting the very best for their child… I’ll say, yes, yes, and yes, thank you very VERY much.
If the abrupt ending left me thinking and wanting a bit more, Highly Illogical Behaviour is definitely a must-read for anyone wanting a good, fast-paced contemporary focusing on friendship and mental illness, with humor, a smile on your face, and most of it all, a story that feels real, just like the world, where there isn’t a cure for everything but there is always hope.
Final rating: 4 drops!
Did you read Highly Illogical Behaviour? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it? Share your thoughts in comments!
John Corey Whaley, Highly Illogical Behaviour, Published by Faber and Faber, May 10th 2016.
Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.