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.
Highly Illogical Behaviour is the second book I’ve read by John Corey Whaley, and let me tell you, two out of two have been five-star reads. After absolutely adoring Noggin, I had quite high expectations for Highly Illogical Behaviour. I knew it was going to be heartwarming and funny and a little bit quirky, and I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t at all let down. In fact, Highly Illogical Behaviour exceeded my expectations in so many different ways. While it was quite different from Noggin, I felt that Whaley’s unique voice really shone through the difficult topics he addressed (with perfection, I might add) and allowed what could have been just a deep book about anxiety and the problematic nature of trying to ‘fix’ someone into an unforgettable coming-of-age story that I’ll be recommending to everyone I know for quite some time to come.
While I was really excited to start reading this book, there was one little nagging thought at the back of my mind that I couldn’t ignore, and that was the question of how well he’d deal with such a complex and often confronting topic, which was anxiety, or more specifically, agoraphobia. I’ve read a few books that attempt to tackle this issue recently and while the vast majority have been positive experiences and aren’t problematic — Underwater and Fangirl come to mind first — there have been a couple that have left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The blurb says that one of the characters attempts to ‘fix’ another, so this kind of switched on the caution lights inside my mind. However, I found that this aspect of the novel was written incredibly well and so authentically that it pulled at my heart strings left me a blubbering mess by the end. I’m so impressed by the realistic nature of Whaley’s writing and the way he opened the door up to the conversation about mental illness and the stigmas that surround it. We need more books like Highly Illogical Behaviour.
Continuing on from the genuine insight into agoraphobia and the extent to which it affects not only the life of the sufferer, but also those around them, I felt that the characters themselves were unbelievably authentic and honestly just a pleasure to get to know. Solomon is such a precious character with a fantastic sense of humour and an even better sense in nerdy appreciation. He loves Star Trek, so that was an instant win for me, and I loved seeing him nerd-out over this and embrace that whacky side of his personality — you know, the side that recreates the holodeck in their garage? — to such an extent. He’s a complete dork, and I loved him so much because of that. Highly Illogical Behaviour also had such an accurate representation of panic attacks. While they’re different for each person, this aspect was written with such honesty, which made respect this book so much more.
While there is romance in this book, it was so refreshing to see it focus on friendship more closely for a change. I’m so sick of reading books where the friendship is either nonexistent or takes the backseat to the romance because that’s simply not a realistic portrayal of the majority of teenage experiences. Yes, we do have crushes and we date people and we have relationships, but we also have friends, and that part cannot be silenced. More than anything, I think it’s important to display positive and honest friendships in YA novels, and that’s exactly what we saw in Highly Illogical Behaviour. The friendship between Lisa and Clark and Solomon was honestly so beautiful to watch develop and while it was kind of founded on a lie, there ended up being so much truth behind it and it was absolutely brilliant to see that develop into an unbreakable bond between these three gorgeous people.
Possibly my favourite aspect of this book is that it wasn’t a ‘cure’ story. Sorry to spoil it for you (just kidding) — but Solomon isn’t ‘fixed’ by the end. Frankly, books that portray characters with mental illnesses to be cured by falling in love or realising they were beautiful all along aren’t realistic. I honestly find it insulting that some authors assume that they can shove these messages down readers’ throats because they either a) haven’t had / have a mental illness, b) have done no research, or c) think their book will only sell if it’s ‘inspirational’ and is all lovey-dovey. First of all, you’re wrong. Second of all, please leave the room and shut the door on the way out. I’m not even interested in giving those books a quick glance anymore. So thankfully, Highly Illogical Behaviour gave us something realistic. While Solomon does make huge improvements, there’s no doubt that he still has a long way to go. But what the author allows readers to realise is that support and people loving you for who you are is the one thing that can aid in relieving a mental illness and make coping with it better, or maybe even cure it.
Highly Illogical Behaviour is an honest portrayal of living with anxiety that places the emphasis on friendship and having people to love you for who you are, weaving together moments of seriousness and quirky quips to create a novel that’s truly unforgettable. This fast-paced, beautifully-written story deserves to be on everyone’s shelves.
Thanks for Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Title: Highly Illogical Behaviour
Publication date: September 2016
Publisher: Faber Children Pb
Australian RRP: $16.99