“We’re just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human.”
Highly Illogical Behaviour is a touching and comical coming-of-age story about mental illness, friendship and high school romance.
Solomon is a sixteen year old boy with acute agoraphobia – he hasn’t left his home in three years, ever since he had a severe panic attack on his first day of high school which resulted in him stripping down and jumping into the school fountain. Solomon spends his days doing homework online, reading books and watching T.V. His parents and grandmother are his only friends and he is happy, if only a little lonely. Lisa is a dedicated senior who is determined to get into the second best psychology program in the country – and to make a lasting impression on her college of choice, she decides to befriend Solomon, “fix him” and write an essay detailing her success. Clark is Lisa’s boyfriend, her opposite in every way. He is content to just go with the flow but finds himself dragged into Lisa’s scheme.
I was a bit hesitant to read Highly Illogical Behaviour, mainly because I didn’t like the fact that Lisa wanted to “fix” Solomon. I feel like that sends a poor message to those who are dealing with mental illness. As I was reading the book, this feeling came up a few times. It took a while for me to place this issue at the back of my mind, but once I did, I quite enjoyed the novel.
“He was an astronaut without a suit, but he was still breathing.”
Solomon was an interesting character. His chapters were very raw and realistic – it really opened my eyes to the pressure of anxiety. When Solomon related how terrifying it was to even think about leaving the house, I was on the verge of tears. Despite the fact that he couldn’t go outside, Solomon was a very relatable character and I think that has to do with his frank discourse. He was very aware of his problems. His parents were supportive and I was happy they didn’t treat him like a child, but rather like an adult who had made a conscious decision. They respect his choice, but still find ways to help him. He has a strong relationship with his parents and genuinely enjoys spending time with them.
Clark was a sweetheart and his addition to the friendship group complicates matters, as Solomon gets a crush on him. He was such a dorky nerd, like Solomon, and that is how he and Solomon bond. They quickly become best friends, but Lisa gets jealous because she believes that Clark is secretly gay and in love with Solomon, because he won’t have sex with her. Don’t be put off, there’s no love triangle. Just a lot of teenage angst, confusion and friendship, the dynamics of which could be quite complex. I also have to say I enjoyed reading Clark’s views on sex: he doesn’t want to sleep with Lisa simply because he is not ready. I think that was a very refreshing take on a teenage boy’s attitude to sex – usually, the boys are the ones trying initiate sex, but that doesn’t happen here and I was glad.
“You’re like Lady Macbeth without the murder.”
“Thank you. You have no idea how much of a compliment that is to me.”
While I adored Clark and Solomon, Lisa really got on my nerves. She is very ambitious and focussed, which I admire, but she can’t differentiate between good and bad. She does the wrong thing but thinks it’s for the right reasons, so that makes it ok in her mind, even though it most definitely is not. I also didn’t like her belief that because Clark didn’t want to have sex with her, he must be gay. There were many occasions where she tried to convince Clark to sleep with her, even though it was very obvious he didn’t want to, and I was left feeling very uncomfortable. Lisa is redeemed at the end of the novel, but that didn’t make me like her any better. I feel like she was an unsympathetic character the whole way through and reading her chapters made me grit my teeth.
I did not particularly like the writing. It was very simple, just a whole lot of “My name is Solomon and I’m sixteen and I’m agoraphobic.” It felt like I was being told something, as opposed to reading it. I guess that accounts for Solomon’s chapters, due to his personality and mental illness, but it doesn’t for Lisa’s. It takes a while to assimilate to the style but it does make for a quick and easy read. There were moments of seriousness mixed in with quirkiness and hilarity: at times, these scenes flowed and worked well, but sometimes they didn’t and that meant I couldn’t connect properly with the story, especially Lisa’s chapters.
In the end, Highly Illogical Behaviour was quite an average novel. There were times I really enjoyed myself, and other times I wanted the book to just be over already. However, the book’s focus on the importance of friendship and support was communicated very wonderfully.