Title: Highly Illogical Behavior (2016)
Author: John Corey Whaley
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 256 pages
Release Date: May 31, 2016
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.
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 Behaviour — Whaley’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. 🙂