Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: "Highly Illogical Behavior" by John Corey Whaley

After reading his third book (following Where Things Come Back and Noggin), I'm seriously becoming a John Corey Whaley groupie. Not that I wasn't already a huge fan, but I absolutely fell in love with the heart and humor of this book, and as always, his writing is funny and sensitive and warm without being too clever.

Solomon Reed is 16 years old. He hasn't left his house in three years, since a panic attack compelled him to sit in the fountain at his school until his parents came to take him home. He's smart and funny, he loves movies and books and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the thought of leaving his house makes him hyperventilate to the point he cannot breathe. So while his parents worry about his future, for now they're content to let him go to school online and spend his life inside his house, with only them and his spry, sassy grandmother for company.

Lisa Praytor is determined to escape her hometown and make something of herself. She has her sights set on attending the second-best psychology program in the country, but there's a catch: her essay must deal with her personal experience with mental illness. After a chance encounter with Sol's mother, she finds a solution to that problem—she's going to "fix" Solomon (whom she remembers from middle school) and get him to leave his home again. She knows it will be hard work, but isn't realizing her academic dreams worth a little effort?

It's not long before Lisa realizes that Sol may have problems, but he's far from the boring, crazy person she expected. The two develop a strong friendship, filled with movies and games and confiding in each other. Eventually Lisa introduces Sol to Clark, her good-looking, athletic boyfriend, whose lack of ambition has Lisa questioning what she means to him. The three become an inseparable trio.

Sol doesn't realize how much he needed friends, and Clark and Lisa are all too happy to oblige, more out of sheer enjoyment than her original ulterior motive. But as Sol shares his secrets, and starts to think about life outside his house, Lisa starts questioning her relationship with Clark, and what Sol's role might be in the problems they're having. And of course, Sol is not the only one caught in the crossfire.

When we're at our most vulnerable, how do we let our guard down to let people in when we've done just fine on our own (or so we think)? At what point do we put the needs of others over our own needs, and why do we let others force us to act in ways which make us uncomfortable? Highly Illogical Behavior is about what it's like to just let go and put your faith in others, even as your heart and your head are telling you not to. It's a book about coming to terms with our fears and accepting who we are, even if we don't fit the mold most people expect us to.

While obviously the idea that parents would allow their teenage son to stay in their house for three years without leaving seems a little implausible, this issue doesn't detract from the beauty and heart of this book. Yes, we all know I'm a sap, but this book made me laugh and made me think even as it made me tear up. Solomon is such a fantastic character, and while Lisa's motivations certainly were questionable, I really liked Clark and many of the book's supporting characters as well.

Bravo again, John Corey Whaley. I promise not to stalk you, but I will be eagerly awaiting your next book, because I love the way you write. And I wouldn't mind if you wanted to bring a little more Solomon back into my life some day, too.

Thanks to First to Read and Dial Books for making available an advance copy of this book, in exchange for my unbiased review!!

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