Housebound with severe mental illness, a white teen fights her demons and attempts a romance with a neighbor.
Seventeen-year-old Norah’s high school career ended four years ago. Her illness arrived suddenly; now agoraphobia and OCD prevent her from leaving her house and direct every minute of her day and night. Her unflaggingly supportive and adoring mom home-schools her. Norah narrates her obsessive thoughts, terror, anxiety, tics, coping mechanisms, panic attacks, and losses of consciousness in a first-person voice that’s vivid, tormented, sad, and funny: “ ‘I’m fine. I swear.’ I twirl, because nothing says I’m mentally stable quite like an impromptu pirouette”; “I wonder if I can buy a lobotomy on eBay.” Her self-awareness is believably inconsistent: she knows cutting is self-injury but won’t accept that skin-scratching—which she does constantly, until she bleeds—also counts. She tries to date the respectful, devoted, almost-impossibly-perfect boy next door without leaving her house or touching him. She’s a “tall skinny blonde with baby-blue doe eyes,” but her insecurities meld into her illness. Although Norah’s voice is droll, desperate, and compelling, her illness rules her plot arc as it rules her life. Disturbingly, Gornall uses a home invasion as a catalyst for Norah’s out-of-the-blue progress at the end, rendering this traumatic event as not only benign—leaving no emotional scars—but productive.
Excellent prose is undercut by a highly implausible ending. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)