What: Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley
Who: Faber & Faber
When: September 2016
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Allen and Unwin for review.
RRP: $16.99 (AUD)
Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn’t left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom–even if his kingdom doesn’t extend outside of the house.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She’ll do anything to get in.
When Lisa finds out about Solomon’s solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon’s trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.
This is actually a review that is somewhat hard to write. Because, on the one hand, there were things that I loved about this book. For example:
+ Solomon’s family (mother, father, grandmother). They are legit the most wonderful and accepting family that anyone could possibly hope for, and I wish I could clone them and give them to all the people who need not-shit families. Because Solomon’s family is AMAZING. The way they supported him and never judged him and accepted him was just beautiful. All families should be like this.
+ Solomon and Clark and Lisa’s friendship. Though based on a lie, these guys are so tight. And it made me miss having those friends who will just sit and watch Netflix with you for hours and not be bothered by it.
+ The geekery. Solomon and Clark are Star Trek obsessed (specifically with The Next Generation) and it was freaking adorable. I loved seeing Clark, a ~super hot athletic boy~, be into completely geeky stuff because the two are not mutually exclusive. I didn’t get any of the references because I am simply a Star Trek movie fangirl (sue me, whatever), but I can imagine how amazingly awesome it would be to have actually known what the characters were talking about all the time.
However, on the other hand, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much, for example:
+ The ableism and use of ablelist language. For a book about a character with both anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, the ableism and ableist language was very gross to read about. The word “crazy” was used so, so many times, and in such horrible ways. And the way that some people talked about Sol was truly discomforting. I didn’t want this book to be like that. I didn’t want mental health to be degraded and made fun of.
+ Lisa’s motivation for being friends with Sol. She wants to “fix” him, and I didn’t like that. No one needs to be “fixed”. And even if her goal was to just HELP him, lying to him and using her basic high school knowledge of psychology wouldn’t have been conducive to any kind of progress, anyway.
+ Lisa in general. I honestly didn’t like this girl very much at all. She uses Sol throughout the whole book. She also becomes obsessed with the fact that Clark doesn’t want to have sex with her and spends all of his spare time with Sol, which leads her to think that Clark is gay. U h m. Okay, what? That was so ridiculous, and the fact that her belief in this impacted Sol in a negative way was selfish and unforgivable, to be honest.
+ The lack of diversity. I’m not sure there was one POC character in this entire book and the only LGBTQIA+ character was Solomon.
Then there were some other general thoughts I had on the book that aren’t necessarily things I liked or disliked, for example:
+ In some ways, Highly Illogical Behaviour used the “love will fix you” trope, but in some ways it didn’t. Sol wanted to go swimming in a pool in his backyard before Lisa or Clark came along. But then Sol was inspired to do more BECAUSE of their friendship.
+ Solomon. I loved some things about him, and didn’t love some other things. I certainly wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t like how he used the word “crazy” to manipulate his father. That’s so not on.
+ Solomon ends up alone (romantically). I don’t really think it’s a spoiler to say that Solomon falls in love with Clark. I mean, I figured that out from the blurb. But Clark isn’t gay, and Solomon confesses his love to him anyway, and is, of course, shut down. This was like a “why” moment. Why did this have to be a story where the gay boy falls in love with his straight friend and gets shot down? Why couldn’t he have gotten the guy? Or maybe another guy? I don’t know. I’m just kind of sick of the LGBTQIA+ characters hardly ever getting truly happy endings.
Overall, though, I really did enjoy Highly Illogical Behaviour. It made me laugh some times, and at others it made me sad. Even though it wasn’t perfect in a lot of ways I’m still glad I read it.
Before I end this review I want to say that there have been reviewers who have mentioned that the portrayal of agoraphobia in this novel was harmful to them (as agoraphobes). So I highly recommend reading such reviews before commenting on the representation of agoraphobia in Highly Illogical Behaviour if you don’t have personal firsthand experience with it.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: ableism, use of ableist language, panic attacks, anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia in this novel