Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.
About Becky Albertalli
Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and – coming soon – The Upside Of Unrequited. She is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children and teens. Currently, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta, where she spends her days writing books for teens.
(You can add Under Rose-Tainted Skies to your Goodreads shelves Here!)
There’s a ritual I do every night before I go to bed. I’ve done it for most of my adult life. I make sure the doors are locked. I make sure the oven is turned off. And then I lie in bed wondering if I really locked the door, because I can’t quite picture the moment of locking it. And did I actually turn off the oven? Because maybe I’m remembering the time I turned the oven off yesterday, which means I didn’t turn it off today, which could mean it’s on the way to starting a huge house fire RIGHT NOW, and everyone I love will die. I mean, probably not. It’s a very slim chance. But the stakes are so high, and the consequences would be so grave, and I should probably check it one more time. And one more time after that.
I don’t actually meet criteria for OCD. I’ve had panic attacks, but I don’t have Panic Disorder. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, relatively stable on Zoloft. But there’s a sort of fluidity to anxiety – mine never wants to sit neatly inside the parameters of its diagnosis. Which is why stories of anxiety sometimes feel familiar to me, even if the specific symptoms are a mismatch. Because it’s not really about the symptoms – it’s the way my thoughts spiral, and the particular logic they follow.
I read a book, recently. It’s about a girl with anxiety that manifests differently than mine, and interferes with her daily life more than mine ever did. She’s unable to leave her house, except under very specific circumstances. She has concerns about germs and cleanliness that have never been an issue for me (in fact, this character would be horrified if she saw my workspace).
But wow: did her mind feel familiar.
The book is called Under Rose-Tainted Skies, by Louise Gornall. It comes out in the US in January of 2017, and it utterly blew me away. It’s about a girl named Norah who grapples with agoraphobia and OCD. I knew I’d find her story interesting. After all, in another professional life, I was a clinical psychologist.
I did not expect to see myself so clearly in Norah’s story – in her voice – in her spiraling thoughts.
There’s a specific feeling you get when you read about a character like you. I’m far from the first to articulate this, and others have explained it more eloquently, but for me, it’s the assurance of being seen. And I can’t speak for every type of marginalization, but I know something about anxiety. There’s no universal experience, but there are common threads. We’re often accused of being irrational. Sometimes we are irrational. A lot of the time, we know it. But then we’re asked to kindly stop being irrational. It would be more convenient for everyone if we could just dial the anxiety back a bit. Be less scared. Whatever it is you’re anxious about, just try not to think about it.
We spend a lot of time being misunderstood.
Which makes it that much more powerful when we’re finally seen.
Louise Gornall gets it. She’s been there. She even begins the book with a message to readers, explaining that Norah’s story was inspired by her own experiences. And it’s so clear on every page. Norah’s push-pull between hyperfocus and avoidance. The way her body responds to new situations, and the way she interprets that physical response. The way she obsesses over her text messages. The tiny rituals she has for coping. And – especially – the way her mind has certain rules, and those rules have exceptions.
These are things people miss sometimes when trying to portray anxious characters. Anxiety is complex and full of contradictions. Under Rose-Tainted Skies honors that complexity, and leans into those contradictions. It is one of the most breathtakingly honest books I have ever read.
I used to avoid speaking about my anxiety – I was worried I was oversharing. Now, I make a point to be open about it. After reading this book, that feels more important than ever.
I want to make people feel the way I felt reading this book. I’m very grateful to Louise Gornall for seeing me.
Title The Upside of Unrequited
Author Becky Albertalli
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
To Be Published April 11th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love – she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness – except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. More than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a Tolkien superman with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.