Letter Essay #6- Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Recently I finished a 326-page realistic fiction book called Under Rose-Tainted Skies. It is written by Louise Gornall, a new author writing to spread awareness of mental health issues and illnesses. I read this book because of the fact that it looked interesting, and it was on the newly published rack at the library. Books on that shelf are easily accessible, and literally right there, so I picked it up to read, and I’m glad I did.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is about a girl named Norah, who has agoraphobia, fear of leaving home and mysophobia, the fear of germs or contamination. These fears, combined together, control her life. After started high school, she developed this mental condition, and has stayed in her house for around 3 years now. Norah lives with her mom, who is also her teacher and caretaker, and who has become her best friend throughout the years. The one she can talk to about anything. Then something happens. Her mom is away on business and gets in a car accident, postponing her return by a week. Norah has to stay home alone for longer than she has before, and then something else turns up. When her grocery delivery service shows up at her house, they leave the groceries outside. Problem is, Norah can’t leave the house without passing out or having panic attack. She tries to reach the groceries herself with a broom, but is notices by the new boy next door, He comes over and asked to help, which scares Norah. But, she lets him get the bags for her. This is the beginning of their complicated relationship, of awkward hand-touching and movie watching, that turns out to be the best thing in Norah’s life. Until he kisses her. Then everything changes.
The climax of this book is very defined, yet very close to the end of the book, making a longer rising ation, and a very short resolution. Weeks after Luke kisses Norah and she shuts him out for not understanding, Norah is home alone one night. After sleeping from like 5 p.m. to 2 in the morning, Norah wakes up to see that the light is on in her mom’s room, and the door is open, despite her mom leaving yesterday morning after shutting her door, and staying at her work overnight to fix something a new coworker messed up. Someone is in Norah’s house. Norah starts to have a panic attack, but because of her own bravery and perseverance, she resists the attack and moves herself downstairs and out the door to Luke’s house, having to step over broken glass and avoid the intruder in the process. When she gets to Luke’s house she has just enough consciousness to tell him and his mom there is “someone in her house”, before passing out on their doorstep. The author adds a lot of suspense to this scene, along with character development.
The character development in this book is very significant, and done in a mature and pronounced way. In the beginning of the book, Norah very vulnerable, with not chance or thought of facing her condition She is in the state of mind that this is the way she will be forever. But one main factor helps the character develop in this book. This factor is Luke, Norah’s love interest. Luke completely changes Norah, and most importantly, helps her discover the unknown bravery inside her. By the end of the book, Norah is cured almost fully, only feeling a little scared walking out of her house, but then is fine once she leaves. The character development is put in everything Norah says and does throughout the book, letting you really get to know her as a person and not just a character in a book.
I would say the theme of this book is Never give up. During the book, the main character, Norah, cuts herself, but not for the purpose of killing herself, or self-harm. She does it to relieve herself from the mental pain she suffers during an anxiety attack, or a time when she is very overwhelmed. The pain lets her focus on something other than her mental pain for a moment, to snap her back into reality. Although Norah acknowledges that she may be living like this forever, she never resorts to the ‘there is no point’ place that some with mental illnesses or depression go often. She focuses on life just starting, and trying to get somewhere else than where she is. She never gives up on herself, which is the best thing about her, and the reason she ends up cured at the end of the book. In a way, I am proud of her for staying strong for all of these years, and while it may not seem like it at first, having a better attitude than many on her own illness.
One passage I found to be especially well-written was on page 262, when Luke gives Norah a journal for when she goes to France in the future, a small inside joke of theres. Gornall writes,
“He hands me a book. Not a book. A journal. The cover is coated in pictures. It’s shiny. Silky smooth. My fingers skate idly over an image of the Arc de Triomphe, the Latona Fountain, the Eiffel Tower and a half a dozen other famous structures in France”(262).
I found the writing in this specific passage to be profound, describing the moment exactly. The way Gornall wrote pieced together Norah’s emotion and storytelling just right to make this passage perfect. One way she did this was through using the author’s craft technique of artful fragments. They show her emotion, amazement, kind of, and joy and surprise all mixed together. Her own description of the book, and what it meant to her, while it doesn’t say that in the passage above, the emotion foreshadows what’s to come.
Overall, Under Rose-Tainted Skies was a very well-written book that was a delight to read. It provided insight into the mind of mental illness, the author’s purpose of writing the book, while telling an interesting and captivating story. I would give this book an 8 out of 10.