Book Review: Highly Illogical Behavior – John Corey Whaley

Highly-Illogical-Behaviour-Book-Review-John-Corey-Whaley

Title: Highly Illogical Behavior (2016)
Author: John Corey Whaley
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 256 pages
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

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?

Enter Solomon. 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.

Review

I’ve been on a bit of a contemporary binge lately and Highly Illogical Behavior is one of those books I’m very glad to have read, mostly because it’s funny, realistic, and really quite heartwarming. This story is about Solomon, who after a public breakdown hasn’t stepped outside his house for three years, and Lisa, a teenage girl who witnessed that breakdown firsthand and is now determined to ‘fix’ him.

This book is a character-driven book through and through. The story is told in dual perspectives, Solomon’s and Lisa’s, but I’m happy to report that all the characters who made an appearance had their own distinctive personality and voice, even the minor ones. There are no throwaway characters here; everyone has their own purpose and place in the plot. They were also all so very well-developed.

Solomon was adorable, nerdy, and witty. He’s a likeable guy to both the readers and other characters, so it was no surprise that I ended up really loving him. I have very limited experience with people with agoraphobia or anxiety disorders so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I thought he was portrayed in a very realistic, refreshing manner. I worried when he worried, I cheered when he made progress, and I was proud when he succeeded. He was a character you just couldn’t help but to root for.

“All he was doing was living instead of dying. Some people get cancer. Some people get crazy. Nobody tries to take the chemo away.”

Lisa, on the other hand, was so much less likeable: confident to the point of being arrogant, self-centred, and honestly kind of manipulative and entitled. Her main reason for getting to know Solomon was at first so she could write a college application essay about her experience with mental illness. I went into this book expecting myself to really dislike her, but I surprisingly did — she was insecure, vulnerable, and actually kind when it came down to it.

“[…] there were a lot of people in the world who regretted never doing the things they felt were right because they were afraid of seeming strange or crazy. Lisa wouldn’t settle for that sort of mediocre existence, one bound by invisible social cues.”

Clark, Lisa’s boyfriend, played a much bigger role than I had expected him to. He was really likeable, really nerdy, and a great addition to the Lisa-Solomon equation. I loved that he was portrayed as kind of a handsome, popular jock but also a really, really nice guy. More than that, I also enjoyed this book’s more realistic portrayal of sex. Unlike in popular media, [spoiler] where men are typically hungry beasts who always want sex and women the shier, more reserved sex, Clark was the one who wasn’t ready for sex, and it boggled Lisa’s mind to the extent where she thought he was gay for Solomon. [/end spoiler] I appreciated this role reversal and liked that it was addressed, though admittedly not as much as I wanted it to be.

Another thing I really, really enjoyed about Highly Illogical Behavior is Solomon’s parents. All of us have read a YA book — tons of YA books — where parents are either a) missing in action and neglectful or b) controlling and overbearing, but not so in this one. Solomon’s parents were probably the most supportive, most caring parents I’ve ever had the chance to read about, and it was great to for once read a family dynamic that’s healthy and loving. They never once pushed Sol to be what he wasn’t and always accepted him so completely. It was extremely heartwarming, and I daresay it was actually the best relationship portrayed in this book.

”The world is big and scary and unforgiving. But we can survive out here.”

The portrayal of mental illness here is I think also quite realistic. Solomon’s panic attacks were treated seriously and as a big deal, and while Lisa started out the book determined to ‘fix’ Solomon, I felt like she grew out of it and developed as a person in the end. I’d take issue if Whaley pushed that people with mental illnesses are supposed to be ‘fixed’, but I didn’t get that impression from the book.

The ending was in my opinion quite abrupt and left quite a lot of things unresolved, which is the major reason why I took one star off the rating. Overall, though, I really enjoyed Highly Illogical BehaviourWhaley’s writing style was fast-paced and filled with the occasional snarky humour, which made reading it so easy, and with really likeable characters, this book is one I’d recommend. 🙂

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22 thoughts on “Book Review: Highly Illogical Behavior – John Corey Whaley

  1. Brilliant review, Reg! I’ve been curious and hesitant about this one because as much as I love anxiety (and especially agoraphobia) representation it also makes me nervous because sometimes they’re portrayed so wrong. I experience both of those, which makes me even more nervous to read it, haha, but I’ve heard mostly positive things about this book so I’m glad it seems to be a good representation!

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    • Thanks, Lauren! Admittedly I can only comment on the anxiety and agoraphobia from an outsider’s perspective since I have never experienced either, but I did think the book was reflective of what I know to be true. I definitely recommend it – I’m kind of curious to see what you think. 🙂

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  2. OH such a great review, thank you for sharing! I’ve been seeing this book around EVERYWHERE lately, really ahha, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, and that’s it’s character-driven, and that it portrays mental illness pretty well. I’m eager to get to it now 🙂

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  3. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I love his other books, so I can’t wait to read this one. I love when there’s a strong family presence in YA, especially awesome parents. Great review!

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    • I haven’t read his other books and now I’m keen to! And yeah, family presence is always needed – I mean, I think when I was a teenager my parents were VERY present in my day-to-day life. Hope you like this one too. 🙂

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  4. Great review Reg! This book is actually on my to-read list (I was really swayed by the gorgeous cover) and I’m planning to start it next month so I’m really glad to see you enjoyed it so much!
    The characters all sound amazing, and I’m really interested to see how Solomon’s anxiety and agoraphobia are handled, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that focuses on that aspect before. Plus it’s great he has a strong family as well, I’ve read more YA books than I can count where the parents are out of the picture and it just isn’t realistic. 😀

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    • Thanks, Beth! I highly recommend it and I can’t wait for you to pick it up. ❤

      Yeah, I know – this is the first book as well that I've read that touches upon agoraphobia, and I have to say that I think it does a really good job on portraying it, though admittedly I have very limited experience with it. And it must be noted that I LOVE Solomon’s parents! They’re super supportive and I like that Sol agrees how lucky he is – it’s not very often we get a healthy parent-child relationship where the child, in particular, is explicitly grateful. 😛

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      • It’s not a common subject in YA fiction is it? In fact I don’t see a lot of disabilities addressed in YA books but there does seem to be more being released nowadays. It’s good that this one is well written when it comes to agoraphobia, it must have been a tricky subject to write about. 😀
        Oh that sounds like a brilliant parent-child relationship in that case, we definitely need to see more of that in YA books! 🙂

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        • It’s not super common, at least not from what I’ve been reading. This was my first book with agoraphobia – I’m not sure if there are others (there probably are, haha).

          And yeees! That’s one of the things that I feel is sorely lacking with the majority of YA fiction. When I was a teenager my parents were INCREDIBLY present in my life (and also the source of my many teenage problems) and I feel like in many books they’re just… not around.

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          • It’ll be my first book with agoraphobia as well, and honestly off the top of my head I can’t think of any more that deal with a subject like this, but yeah there are probably others out there! 😀
            Oh same here, even when I didn’t want them to be as much 🙂
            And yeah teens do keep stuff from their parents but not to the extent I’ve seen in some YA books (mainly fantasy/dystopian novels admittedly)!

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  5. Amazing review like always !! 😀 it sounds liek a book I’d read so Im putting it in my TBR list woohoo 🙂 Characters sound well-constructed and the story well-driven ! Love it ❤ – Trang

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  6. I loved this book too! I just reviewed it yesterday on my new blog, and you’re spot on with your comment how the characters make this book amazing. It took me several chapters to begin to like Lisa, but by the end of the novel, she and Solomon’s grandmother were my two favorites. Great review! ~NS

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    • Ahh I’m glad to hear that! This was definitely a character-driven book, and I found both them and their relationships really well-developed. I also really liked Sol’s grandmother – what a winner. 🙂

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