Publication Date: May 10, 2016
US Publisher: Dial Books
UK Publisher: Faber and Faber
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 249 (ARC)
Source: From Faber & Faber For Review
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 how can she prove she deserves a spot there?
Solomon is the answer.
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark and confiding her fears in him. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.
When I was offered a UK ARC of this book, I had to stop myself from jumping for joy. I fell in love with the idea of it immediately after reading the synopsis months ago, and I am so happy to report that John Corey Whaley delivers an amazing tale full of raw emotions, powerful morals, killer friendships, and Star Trek references.
To begin, it is worth noting that this is one of those stories about doing the right thing for the wrong reason. And, in this case, I think it works. Lisa decides to "fix" Solomon's agoraphobia so that she can get into her dream college's psychology program and write about how she's already on track to be an amazing psychologist. Naturally, it goes without saying, that this is her journey to discovering that people can't be fixed. I was a bit apprehensive because this idea has the potential to go horribly awry and get a bit offensive, but Whaley handles it with the finesse of a great, educated writer and uses this as a platform to help readers understand mental health more properly. Bravo.
I was also a bit worried about Lisa's characterization. She's not an outright anti-hero, but she is certainly an unlikable protagonist. Eventually, you learn more about her past and why she is the way she is and you begin to understand her more, but Solomon is so extremely likable that it is hard to truly love anyone who may be using him. Solomon's characterization is off the freakin' charts. I adored him. He is content with where he finds himself in life, but also curious and realistic about his future. What is it going to mean when he can't go outside? He pushes himself on his own, taking baby steps, and I adore it. I also really like Clark, Lisa's handsome water polo-playing boyfriend who is also a huge nerd. He finds a dear friend in Solomon that I don't think could ever be replaced. To be honest, I love Clark more than Lisa, but at times his characterization seemed too convenient to progress certain plot points. With all of this in mind, Solomon's grandmother clearly steals the show and I want to clone her to have her all to myself, please and thank you. Bonus points for killer family dynamics and showing how important it is to have a strong support system around you whether you're struggling or not.
Told in alternating third person POV between Solomon and Lisa, I naturally found myself looking forward to Solomon's chapters because they explored agoraphobia and panic disorders--a topic I have witnessed but still have much to understand about. Whaley displays this beautifully and left the reader very satisfied. Lisa's chapters also had crucial plot points in them, even if they made you cringe at times, and helped round out the story as a whole.
I have absolutely no complaints about this book. I put it down after flying through it in a single sitting feeling extremely satisfied and craving a sequel. I want more. I want more of Solomon's exquisite mind and story, and I want more of this awesome family and network of geeky friends. I literally ached as I turned the last page because the overall tale was satisfying, but I was not ready to say goodbye. Months later, I still don't want to say goodbye. Emotional, heartwarming, nerdy, and informative, I think everyone needs to read this book.
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FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.