Published by Dial Books on May 10, 2016
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 is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.
Three years ago, Solomon had a panic attack, climbed into the school fountain, and then disappeared from the world. Three years later, Lisa, who wants nothing more than to become a psychologist and get out of her town, is the only one who wonders about that crazy kid who climbed into the fountain. Lisa is convinced that she can help Sol (and it doesn’t hurt that helping him would be a surefire way to write the winning essay to the school of her choice).
HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR had me from start to finish. It did so many things well, but there are two aspects of this book that make it a stand out novel: the way it depicts relationships and the way it depicts mental illness.
There were two points where I thought I knew what was going to happen romantically in this story, and once the second prediction had been beautifully and effortlessly thwarted, I decided to just sit back and enjoy the story I was being given — one that doesn’t fall into traditional tropes, one that explores the more realistic notion that often when we’re in high school, we fall in love and nothing comes of it, and not only does that not have to be heartbreaking, it also doesn’t have to be the focal point of your life. There is romance in this book — two of the main characters are dating, one of the three main characters falls in love with another one — but it takes a decided back seat to everything else going on in this story, and I was so grateful for that. Friendship was the emphasis. Found families were the emphasis. Whaley has done relationships so well in this novel.
And he’s also done mental illness so well. Sol is that crazy kid who jumped in a fountain, and Lisa is the girl who wants to fix him. But Sol isn’t crazy. He’s just a normal, slightly geeky kid, who likes Star Trek and Munchkin and swimming, who spirals into panic attacks when he thinks about leaving the controlled environment of his home. Lisa — and the reader along with her — has to learn that she can’t fix Sol, because there’s nothing to fix. He has an anxiety disorder. He isn’t broken.
At its heart, this is a coming of age story for three different flawed and imperfect teenagers, a story about all three of them having to overcome the fears and insecurities that are holding them back. And it is very, very well done.