Realism. That’s what I search for in books. Sure, I want the happy ending where everything is tied together in a vibrant red bow, but when a book is real, when it sticks to your gut and seems so unfair and so bittersweet, that’s when I know I’ve found a book worth reading. Highly Illogical Behavior disappointed me, but I’ve never been happier to be disappointed. Let me explain: I wasn’t disappointed because the novel was bad but because it was exceptionally good. It didn’t give me the perfect ending that I wanted, and that, its dare to be real, is what left me incredibly satisfied.
I want to start off by saying that all of the characters are fucked up. Every single one of them has a recognizable “weakness,” or something that sets them apart from the so-called normal. Some are a bit more apparent than others (I mean, Solomon’s mental illness is the centre of the plot), but they all have something that falters them and makes them interesting to read about. I loved both Lisa and Sol, and I loved Clark and Sol’s parents too. His parents are great, by the way, and the book makes sure to point that out: not everyone is fortunate enough to have parents as understanding as his. The characters are all strong, interesting, and flawed. This novel is yet another example of how a group of well-rounded characters can make even a simple plot highly captivating.
Another thing I adored was the romance– or lack thereof. There is a love plot, but it doesn’t feel romantic. The novel isn’t about romance at all: it’s about love, the love of family and friends and how it doesn’t fix everything but it certainly makes it easier. The romance in the story also disappointed me because what I wanted to happen didn’t happen but I am so glad that it didn’t. See, if it had happened, I would have been very happy for a brief moment in time, but because it didn’t happen, it feels suddenly not like a story but like a history. Whaley doesn’t hand me the happy ending I want, and instead makes me see the truth of the matter. Which leads me to my next point: the portrayal of mental illness.
As someone who does battle with mental illness, I found Solomon’s story to be recognizable in a way that most novels about mental health don’t seem to be. Yes, his case may seem extreme, but it makes sense. It breaks down panic attacks and anxiety in a way that makes me feel a familiarity with Solomon that I don’t feel with many. I don’t know how he feels, and I can’t say I feel the same, but I recognize his emotions and the way anxiety can take over everything. For this, I want to say: thank you, thank you, thank you.
The ending isn’t a fairy tale, and it’s not a happily ever after. Nothing is for sure, and no one is cured, but I feel uplifted and optimistic all the same. Solomon’s story is not my own, but I feel optimistic for both his future and my own. I love how the end is ambiguous and open, left up to the reader to decide everyone’s fate. The ending I’ve devised is my ending, and not yours, so I’m not going to share, but I will say that things are looking up for all of us.
Whaley has definitely placed himself on my list of favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read what else he has in store.
4.5 swimming pools out of 5.