I read John Corey Whalley’s Noggin last year and have been recommending it to people ever since, so I’ve been keen to read Highly Illogical Behaviour for ages, since even before I was so cruelly denied an e-ARC on Netgalley. Not that I’m bitter about that or anything.
While Noggin has an outlandish and peculiar plot about a boy who receives a head transplant, Highly Illogical Behaviour is grounded more in everyday reality, centring on three characters: Solomon, who hasn’t left his house in 3 years; Lisa, an aspiring psychologist who decides she can “cure” his agoraphobia and get herself a college scholarship at the same time, and Clark, Lisa’s exceptionally nice boyfriend. I defy anyone to read this book and not feel huge amounts of affection for poor Solomon, whose anxiety resulted in an unfortunate and public incident in a water fountain , after which he never left the house again. His (present, caring – almost unheard of in contemporary YA!) parents obviously worry about the permanence of their son’s withdrawal from the world, and so they are thrilled when Lisa forces her way into their lives and seems to help Sol. In some ways, the book reminded me of Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, in its representation of a teenager restricted to their home and the introduction of a catalyst for change in the form of a new friend.
Lisa is a problematic character, but deliberately so; Whalley’s omniscient narrator makes it clear that there’s nothing inadvertent in the presentation of Lisa’s sneaky actions. Her determination and focus are, on the one hand, admirable; it’s really refreshing to read about a 17 year old who knows exactly what she wants in life. With these qualities, however, comes a worrying degree of ruthlessness; although she does genuinely come to like Sol, her ultimate ambition is always at the forefront of her mind, and her arrogance in thinking she can save Sol is hubristic. Despite this, she remains a sympathetic character, and it’s a real strength in Whalley’s writing, and a sign of the affection he clearly holds for his characters, that this is the case. Like Solomon, Clark is a delight to read, and the friendship between the 3 characters is both lovely and hilarious; the dialogue in Highly Illogical Behaviour is a work of art in itself, with plenty of intelligent humour but none of the Dawson’s Creek thesaurus-swallowing which is occasionally evident in YA.
Overall, I’d really recommend Highly Illogical Behaviour; Whalley addresses mental health issues in a way that’s both sympathetic and entertaining, with Sol perfectly able to laugh at what he recognises as the sillinesses of his situation. It’s a perfect read from start to finish, with no cliched fairy tale rescues, but plenty of touching scenes of friendship. I really enjoyed it.