For this week’s review, we have “Highly Illogical Behavior” by John Corey Whaley.
For three years, Solomon Reed has never left the house due to the panic attacks that torment him every day, especially one that left him stripped to his boxers in the water fountain of his middle school. Now living at the age of sixteen with agoraphobia, he never expected anything. He had everything in his home—food, water, entertainment (specifically episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation), and that is fine to him. He didn’t even see his attraction to men as a big deal worth sharing.
However, Lisa Praytor, an ambitious girl his age who is determined to win a scholarship involving mental illness, sets her sights on Solomon and wants to help ‘fix’ him of his agoraphobia. With the help of her charming boyfriend Clark, who is as obsessed with ST:TNG as Sol, they step into his small world. Reluctant at first to include them in his closed life, Sol is convinced after being bribed by a pool (read the book, you’ll see why), and allows Clark and Lisa in.
Now, Lisa never expected to form a close friendship with him and Clark to grow closer. However, as the bond the three friend share grows and grows, so does the guilt and risk of Solomon’s progress if secrets are revealed. Will Solomon finally gather the strength and courage to go outside? Will he finally join his newfound friends or will revealing secrets spread them apart and further isolate him?
Is this entire book intentionally a subtle metaphor for coming out of the closet?
Going in, I thought this would be romantic fluff, especially with how colorful the cover is. I thought Solomon and Lisa would have a relationship like that of Beauty & the Beast, with Clark as a jealous, modern version of Gaston as icing on the cake. But no, it isn’t, which I really like when it comes to stories. For the most part, the writing style and the plot are set at a well-written pace. It’s casual, but also doesn’t rush on some moments.
Solomon is a really likable and complex character, a shut-in who isn’t afraid of open spaces, but more of the stresses that come from social interaction. He also sees his homosexuality as irrelevant, because his reclusive lifestyle doesn’t provide any reason for others to know. There are some parts that I wish we could’ve driven more into his mindset, but his withdrawn yet sympathetic attitude towards others carries him through as a character.
Lisa, while seemingly selfish with her goal, does grow onto you after a while. She’s pragmatic and ambitious, but also a workaholic who wants to travel outside of her hometown. This is great as it shows the parallels between her and Solomon, and how she changes into a better person.
I kind of wish Clark had more character outside of jokes and saying Star Trek references with Solomon in the beginning. Much like Atlas from “The Thousandth Floor”, he feels more like a love interest than a character, and I dislike those types of characters. However, he does grow a defined personality the more he interacts with Solomon. I even love how he scolds Lisa later on for her intentions, and the way he talks to Solomon despite them being gay and straight. He could’ve easily been a throwaway character that treated Solomon as awkwardly as possible. And while they both have some quirky, awkward moments, it’s more of a brotherly connection between friends. Even when it’s revealed Solomon has a crush on the guy, I love how they talk about it and come to a conclusion instead of working off of a deep misunderstanding.
Some of the side characters are nice as well. I love Solomon’s ‘hip’ Hollywood grandmother, his parents, even Lisa’s born-again best friend Janice, who could’ve easily been an antagonistic Christian stereotype, has a sweet (albeit self-righteous) personality. Much like my previous review of “The Great American Whatever” though, I wish they could’ve gotten some more focus on. One other pet peeve would be how the author refers to the parents (Solomon’s, Lisa’s and Clark’s parents) on a first name basis, and how it could confuse readers.
Even, so the writing style is pretty good. I always admire how authors like John Corey Whaley, John Green and David Levithan, whose primary style is more focused on the dialogue and less on the narration. Because of this, it makes what the characters say more memorable and pop with each word they speak. Even when you exclude participles like ‘said’ or ‘ask’, you can tell who is speaking.
Overall, “Highly Illogical Behavior” is a decent, above average young adult novel that is worth your time. Maybe even for an extra reading. There aren’t any notable surprises, at least ones you can’t see coming early on, but it does keep your interest to know what will happen to Solomon. There’s a speech that Solomon’s grandmother makes later in the book that discusses living life, and I think it sums up the entire book. I like the friendships that form between our protagonists, and how they overcome boundaries that ever limit them or allow them to stay in one place.
Take a read, but do go outside once you’re done. Maybe even take a swim in a pool.
Before doing that though, you can purchase the book here: https://amzn.to/2EAu4gV
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