Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

“Sometimes things are going to happen and the only way out is through.”

This was my first YA romance read in quite awhile, but a number of things compelled me to pick it up:

  • An agoraphobic obsessive-compulsive main character written by an own voices author.
  • A wonderful mother/daughter dynamic.
  • A main character named Norah!! (I’m still obsessed with Skam… but thanks to that, this show brought another positive thing into my life.)

And I continued reading when I quickly came to realize that the writing style was the exact kind I love i.e. perfectly captures those specific as hell feelings.
Just to give you a few excerpts:

“But before I hit the stairs, that tiny corner, no longer in line with the other five books, is consuming me. Like that song you heard but can’t quite remember the name of. Or that actor you’ve seen in another film but can’t for the life of you recall which one.”

I love that the author took the time to capture and explain what Norah is feeling in such a downright way.

Also this:

“See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three-day migraine. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.”

What I wasn’t anticipating going into this read was the feeling of relating to Norah on such a deep level. It was like seeing myself through someone else’s eyes; it’s petrifying. And so I kept thinking of this quote that fits perfectly:

“We read to know we’re not alone.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

This review contains *spoilers*.

Initially I wanted to include in here all those moment that made me scream, “ME TOO.” But there are simply too many… (I literally kept a list of things we had in common, but gave up in the end because I kept adding on and on.) So I’ll instead settle on featuring this next exchange between Norah and her superb therapist, Dr Reeves:

“I was hanging around on The Hub, that social media site I was telling you about.’ She nods, and I bite down hard on my bottom lip. ‘And all these people started pinning notes to their profiles about this tragedy in Seto.’ She knows I’m talking about the earthquake in Japan. I can tell because for a split second, grief clouds her eyes. She’s seen the reports, read the first-hand accounts, mourned over the thousands of pictures that have been published.
‘So I started reading . . .’
Her mouth turns down into a frown. ‘I thought we talked about not doing that.’
‘We did. And I was working on it.”

I have the same issue with reading tragic news because I somehow convince myself that if I leave the house, it’ll happen to me… Also the reason why I never picked up Everyday Sexism again.

Also, this valuable moment changed a lot for me:

“‘Effect and outcome.’
‘Exactly. We can assume the best, but we can’t choose how people perceive us. We can, however, choose how those views affect us.”

Circling back to Norah, I really appreciated how she had such a great supporting team made out of her mother and Dr Reeves. Almost all my favourite moments were when one of the two were in scene.

“A knock at the door makes both Mom and me jump. A wave of pink wine rip-curls right out of her glass and splashes on her shirt. She uses her fingertips to wipe it away.
‘Are you expecting someone?’ I ask.
‘You mean besides Brad Pitt?’
‘Then it’s probably him.’
‘How’s my hair?’ Mom laughs as she climbs off the couch and heads for the door. She makes a ceremony of opening it and revealing our mystery visitor. ‘Ah. Norah, I think this Brad Pitt is for you.”

As you can see, I loved the beginning. My interest only wavered a bit when the focus shifted on developing the romance, particularly when I found out that the romantic interest loves the Transformers film series.

It’s pretty much indisputable that Michael Bay’s movies are highly sexist. To quote this article, possibly the most annoying thing in the continuing franchise is director Michael Bay’s constant objectification of young women on screen. And I can’t fully appreciate someone who’s favorite movie is the definition of catering to the male gaze. I kept hoping that the author would let Luke get enlightened and hold the movie accountable for its problematic aspects… that didn’t happen.

But once Transformers wasn’t mentioned again, I was steadily sucked back into the book. And by then I was quietly but sturdily rooting for these two and their hang-outs at Norah’s house. It was seriously one of the most fun times I’ve had while reading a book.

“‘I’ll go to the party,’ he says. ‘But I can come and see you immediately after, right?’
‘Yes. Yes. You absolutely can. If I’m going to be your girlfriend—’
‘Wait,’ he interjects, grinning from ear-to-ear. ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend?’
‘Yes. If you can promise me you won’t hold back just because I can’t do a thing.’
‘I promise,’ he says, and his pinkie, as light as a feather, draws a heart on the side of my hand.”tumblr_of7zrcvuks1tofc6no1_250Even though Luke’s a sincere and compassionate guy, he still has to seriously educate himself before committing to a serious relationship with Norah. And I’m glad we got to see that start to unfold a bit.

However, that ending left me with a lot of food for thought. Under Rose-Tainted Skies suddenly turning into a thriller left me feeling perplexed for days and actually questioning if I picked up the same read as when I started. I just… I don’t even have the correct words to explain what I felt other than to say that it was not something I was anticipating.

Here’s a rundown of what happened in the last thirty something pages:

  • Luke kisses Norah.
  • Norah isn’t ready – understandably- and drifts away from him.
  • They don’t talk for over a month.
  • Intruder breaks into into Norah’s house. (I still don’t know how that suddenly appeared in the plot.)
  • Norah – understandably – loses her cool over it, but in the end bravely takes action.
  • She then proceeds to leave the house on her literal hands and knees, and my heart almost left my body.
  • And of course other things happen that I didn’t even have time to sink in because I was continually flummoxed over the author’s decision to end the book like that… HELP.cbjpbzyvaaah91yI just cannot understand what the hell went down and why. So in order to give myself some needed peace, I’m going to focus instead on the first half of this book and all that I loved in order to forget my confusion (and fear*). I genuinely feel like this next video:

*The day I finished reading this book, I had a nightmare about that intruder with the mask… dammit. This is exactly why I don’t pick up thrillers; I cant handle those things, especially without warning. So that made me feel a bit more resentful towards that ending.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Under Rose-Tainted Skies, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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