Hey all, and Happy New Year’s Eve! When I was planning my review schedule for this month, I did not intend for this to be my last book of the year reviewed on the last of the day year, but December was busy and plans got away from me. Yet I’m actually really happy about being able to end the year with this title. Not because it’s a Christmassy/Wintery/New Year’s kind of story, but because it was astounding, I felt so understood while reading it, and in many ways, like many stories, it is the story of a new beginning.
What do I mean by that? I am thrilled that you asked.
Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, her fears and anxieties swallow her, strangling her ability to even make the three steps it would take to grab them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.
GUYS, I’M DEAD BECAUSE THE ROMANCE IN THIS IS THE SWEETEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN AND LUKE IS PERFECTION AND I AM IN LOVE WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS THIS STORY BECAUSE I RELATE SO HARD.
*sighs like a Disney princess after meeting her forever love* Okay, now that the flailing’s out of the way, allow me to attempt to say something intelligible about my love for this story.
I guess I should begin with a disclaimer: I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with OCD, but, for about a year and a half now, I’ve been almost positive that I have it on a less severe side of the spectrum, and if I had any doubts before, reading this book would have wiped them away. Honestly, half of my love for this story does come from the fact that it made me feel so understood, like there were people out there who got it, what it’s like to live with OCD and the seemingly random anxieties and the… enemy that your own mind can become. In so many ways, Norah was me, only far worse off (most of my OCD stays in my mind rather than keeping me from going outside or causing me to cut or anything like that, so mine is a lot more manageable). And while it is painful to know that others are experiencing that agony and that anxiety, it’s also helpful to know that you’re not alone. 🙂
The other half of my love comes from the fact that this is just an amazing, fantastically written, brilliant, and heartfelt (though not strictly feelsy) story. It’s surprising and sassy and inspiring. There’s obviously the cute romance I mentioned above, ;), but mostly the plot is the character journey because most of it takes place with Norah by herself, sorting out her life from her POV. In that way, the plot is a bit difficult to explain without going straight to the characters, but that didn’t make it boring at all. In fact, I think this kind of story was better for showing the OCD side more than anything else and the complicated, painful path that Norah had to take to even begin her recovery. Much of the battle is her brain vs. her mind, and the way it was told made the story just as powerful and fulfilling as if she’d been fighting a physical antagonist.
Plot: 5 HUNDRED stars out of 5.
As has already been established, the plot was stunning, but the biggest appeal for me was Norah as a character. She was amazing. Fierce and bitter and scared and sarcastic and kind and sweet and different and, technically speaking, mentally ill. She was one of the fullest characters I’ve read all year, even apart from how much I related to her OCD journey. She was just… she was amazing. A truly captivating and inspiring protagonist.
Luke was the nicest nice ever. He wasn’t like… small nice, though, the kind who needed to be protected; instead, he was… protective. Kind. Persistent. Strong. Kind of like a contemporary, dark-haired, horror-movie-loving Peeta. Norah, that dark, I-can-take-care-of-myself-but-am-really-so-broken-on-the-inside love, needed him and I adored how he loved her gently as she was ready, but didn’t allow her to stay stagnant in her comfort zone either. In my opinion, that’s real love.
Even though this is getting kinda long, I would be highly remiss to end the character section without talking about Norah’s mom. SHE WAS… INCREDIBLE. Same as Luke, she loved her daughter gently but also pushed her to keep her progres when she took even a baby step forward. She was exactly what Norah needed in every way and every situation, never enabling or patronizing, but always present, strong, and supportive. Right next to Mrs. Johnsonville of Evertaster and Ms. Galdi of The Replacement Crush, she’s definitely up there as one of my favorite book moms of the year.
Also, here’s a quote from her that I’m just gonna hold onto for the rest of my life:
“Beauty comes from how you treat people and how you behave. But if a little lipstick makes you smile, then you should wear it and forget what anyone else thinks.”
Characters: 5 MILLION stars out of 5.
Norah’s house is basically the only setting in the entire book, but that takes as great a part in her life as the Shire does in Lord of the Rings—because it’s what makes her feel safe. Every room, every curtain, every pillow in its proper place, it’s all important, because it’s all vital to giving Norah some kind of reprieve from her disease. Her house is her safe haven and as such its presence plays a huge part in the story, even if it is the only setting we see.
Literarily speaking, the writing here isn’t the most perfect, but that’s because you’re right there in Norah’s mind at all times. You can see it all. Feel it all, not like you are her, but like she’s right there, speaking directly to you, showing you inside her in brain in the most in-depth, transparent way what it’s like to live with that kind of deep and constant anxiety—yet keep on living anyway.
Another quote I simply need in my life:
Your mind adapts to what worse is. Suddenly, that thing that seemed so terrifying at first is dwarfed by the next challenge that comes your way. But you adapt again and again and again, until you find yourself fearless.
Writing Style/Setting: 5 THOUSAND stars out of 5.
And so we come in at a solid 5 billion stars out of 5. 😉 (don’t even ask how that math works). I absolutely adored this book, the relationships, the dynamics, how understanding and ALIVE all of the characters were… it was amazing. It was inspiring. It was… in its own way, enchanting. If you’re interested in learning more about OCD or you think you may have it, I would highly recommend this book. So that you’ll know, one, you’re not alone, and two, that you can, in spite of the struggle, come out on top. You can pre-order it on Amazon for $11.99, and it comes out in like 3 days.
Remember, dears, that you are amazing, cherished, and loved. Hope you had a merry Christmas and that you have a wonderful New Year.
~ Love, Alexa <3
Note: I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book.
Content: serious cursing and possibly some triggering content.