In Highly Illogical Behavior, Whaley (Where Things Come Back, 2012, and Noggin, 2014) has done an exceptional job of creating an authentic character who has a mental illness that is integral to the plot, but makes this an appealing and witty YA coming of age novel, rather than an ‘issue’ book.
16 year-old Solomon Reed has not left his house for over three years – he’s agoraphobic and prone to panic attacks. But fellow teen, and amateur psychologist, Lisa Praytor remembers his last day at school when he submerged himself in a fountain, and is determined to meet him so she can ”fix” him and write a scholarship winning essay about her experience with mental illness. Unaware of Lisa’s ulterior motive, Sol quickly finds the pleasure of having a friend, and this is increased when Lisa’s handsome and easygoing boyfriend, Clark, starts coming along too.
Told alternately from Sol and Lisa’s third person points of view, this novel quickly builds up a portrait of thoroughly and realistically complicated teens on the verge of adulthood. The characters of the white central trio are beautifully illuminated as they play board games, watch movies, and discuss Star Trek: The Next Generation. As their friendship deepens, their trust in each other grows, but the shaky foundations on which it is built looms just offstage.
The plot flows in both predictable and unexpected directions, as Sol starts to break out of his “quiet and mundane” life, and though the question of the trio’s future, together and singly, is never far from their thoughts, it is rarely tackled upfront. There is a climactic scene, but the book closes with many strands not tied up, or ever explained, and feels a little messy, just like life.
The novel’s tone, flawed but lovable characters, and plot arc are reminiscent of John Green, and should have wide appeal to teen readers.
Reviewed from an ARC