Monday, December 12, 2016

Highly Illogical Behavior

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (2016)

Three years ago, Solomon Reed stripped out of his clothes and lay down in a fountain at his school in front of everyone. He hasn't left his house since. Lisa Praytor is determined to get out of her town, and her escape route is getting into the second-best psychology program in the country. To do so, she needs to submit an essay about a personal experience with mental illness. She remembers Solomon, and when she learns he's agoraphobic she decides he'll be her project and she sets out to befriend him, dragging her boyfriend Clark along with her. Lisa is surprised when she meets Solomon and genuinely likes him. He hasn't had a friend since he left school and is a bit suspicious but soon the three become good friends. But hanging over them all is the fact that Lisa befriended him deceitfully for a project because of her own ambitions.

Lisa connects with Solomon through his mother who is a dentist. The first day Lisa has an appointment with her, she goes home and tells Solomon that she met a former classmate of his who was asking about him. This immediately put me off because it's such a breach of privacy - haven't you heard of HIPPA, Solomon's mom? But apparently Lisa said to tell Solomon she said hi, so I guess I'll accept that. Anyhow, I got over it and that was really my only criticism of the book.

I really thought I was going to dislike Lisa because of her initial deceit. She was just using Solomon, but she genuinely liked him and wanted to be his friend once she got to know him a little. I also understand the desperate need to get out of your hometown. And she did actually help him quite a bit, mostly through her supportive friendship, but also through some more professional means. For instance, when he had a panic attack she sat with him and walked him through a breathing exercise that helped him quite a bit. I'm not sure where she picked it up, but it seems a pretty basic strategy (which, come to think of it, begs the question...why didn't Solomon already know to do that?) Lisa and Clark's relationship was troubled and without giving anything away I'll just say that the way it developed was not what I expected.

Solomon was a pretty good character, with a great sense of humor and a deep love of Star Trek: Next Generation. I liked his insights regarding his mental illness. "Most people would rather do nothing than risk doing the wrong thing - that's something Solomon learned a long time before shutting them all out." His family was very supportive, even to the point that his parents no longer made him see a therapist. He convinced them he did better without therapy, and they accepted that, though they continued to worry and hope he would go outside again someday. I especially liked his grandmother, who was a huge gossip.

This was a very short quick read which I read most of in one day, but it was also quite satisfying. It's probably not the sort of book that will stick with me, but I enjoyed it a lot while I was reading it and I'd recommend it to those looking for representations of mental illness in teen books.

No comments: