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The Compulsive Reader: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

I've been a big fan of John Corey Whaley's novels since my first semester of grad school, when my roommate told me that Where Things Come Back was one of the best books she'd ever read. I picked it up on her recommendation and fell in love. I also really loved the off-the-wall poignancy of Noggin.

Highly Illogical Behavior combines my favorite parts of Whaley's first two novels--the strong emotional pull of Where Things Come Back, and the fantastic humor of Noggin. It's about Solomon, an agoraphobic with anxiety issues, who hasn't left the house in years, and Lisa, the ambitious yet misguided girl who wants to "cure" him so she can get into a psychology program, and ends up becoming his friend. Along the way, Lisa's boyfriend Clark befriends Solomon as well, and soon the three of them are closer than ever. But as they each question their own feelings and perceptions of what each other wants, their pursuit of honesty threatens their friendship.

I fell in love with this book on the first page. Whaley sets up Solomon and his life so perfectly and succinctly, he was never a character I pitied. I worried about him, sure, and I hoped that he would get what he wanted and needed (friends, some bit of control over his anxiety, the ability to walk outside to swim in his pool), but Solomon is not a character you look down on. He may not have much say in whether he can leave the house, but he has autonomy. One of my favorite parts of the entire book was when Lisa and Solomon meet for the first time, and Solomon seemingly opens up to Lisa, and in the process shocks her. Then he looks at her and says, "Lisa, I'm fucking with you."

I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

Lisa, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. She's motivated to help Solomon, but she's not a bad person, either. Her naivety and willful ignorance of the fact that what she's doing could potentially cause more harm than good is troublesome at first, but the more you get to know her, the more you like her. She and Solomon are great friends, and she is excellent at getting him to open up. As the story progresses and she introduces Solomon to Clark, it becomes apparent that Lisa is looking to fill a void in her own life, and she struggling to make sense of a lot things she can't understand.

The friendship between the three of these characters was the best. I so loved reading about their antics, and their banter is both hilarious and profound. This is a friendship story to beat all other friendship stories, and I would read it again in an instant just for the scenes in which those three teens hang out. At a certain point, I wasn't sure how this story would resolve itself, which was pretty exciting. It seems perfectly fitting then that what causes these friends to unravel a bit is Lisa's tendency to overanalyze relationships and assume things. This leads to the inevitable revelation of the truth, but there were still enough surprises and twists in the last fifty pages that I was surprised and delighted at how Whaley wrapped everything up.

Bonus points: Solomon's parents and his grandmother were FANTASTIC characters.

A++, all the stars, will read this one again. Multiple times.

Thanks to Penguin Group for the ARC!

1 comment:

LinWash said...

For some reason, this post was emailed today (April 1). Interesting. But perhaps I needed to see this, because the book sounds awesome!