Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley tells the gut-wrenching story of a boy named Solomon Reed. Three years ago, during an intense panic attack, Solomon entered a fountain near his school and was humiliated as his peers watched him simply trying to calm himself with the water. He never returned to his middle school, and within a few days, he stopped going outside altogether. Solomon (Sol for short) suffers from agoraphobia and refuses to leave his home. He spends his time completing his online classwork and engaging in his love of Star Trek. Until he meets Lisa.
Lisa desperately needs to escape her life in Upland, California. She spends all of her time trying to get into the college of her dreams: Woodlawn University. The school is home to the 2nd highest ranking psychology program in the country, and they offer a scholarship for the student who can write the best essay about their experiences with mental health. After reading about the scholarship, Lisa realizes Solomon is the key to her admission. If she can cure him of his agoraphobia, she knows her chances at the scholarship are increased dramatically. Her memories of the boy who jumped into the fountain three years ago evolve into a complex plan as she works to gain his trust and lead him into the outside world.
Honestly, I loved almost everything about this book. The two lines of text on the front cover quickly drew my eyes while I was at the bookstore, and I needed to discover why Solomon Reed had not left his home in "3 years, 2 months, and 1 day". I instantly became attached to Sol as I read about his struggles with panic attacks and anxiety. It broke my heart to read about all of the suffering and loneliness he endures as a result of his illness. I found confront in his supportive parents, but my anger at all of the souls who tormented him increased with every page. When he finally meets Lisa and begins to emit joy and laughter, I could not help but feel a bittersweet happiness for Sol. However, I deeply struggled with Lisa's character. I really, really tried to forgive her for manipulating Sol, but I couldn't see past her selfish motivations. Luckily, her boyfriend Clark is AWESOME. Basically, he is the kind of guy every girl dreams of finding someday. He is nerdy, funny, and truly sensitive to the emotions of others. I loved how he treats Sol with genuine kindness and sees the negative aspects of his girlfriend's plan.
As I read the book, I found myself deeply connected to the scenes involving Sol and his Grandma. I love how their relationship is based on acceptance and trust, and her character acts as the guiding force in Sol's life. I also really appreciated how Whaley veered away from the stereotype of teenagers never spending time with their parents. Both of Sol's parents are incredibly supportive of their son, and Sol obviously finds true joy while playing games and spending time with them. During the scenes when Sol has panic attacks, I almost cried as I wished for him to someday find peace and happiness. Whaley did an amazing job of depicting the nature of panic attacks and anxiety in a way that felt real. He steers away from the idea of Sol being permanently "cured" from anxiety after only a few months. Instead, he shows readers how there are good days and bad days, but hope is always there waiting around the corner. Every turn of the page was a fresh wave of raw emotion whether it was joy, sorrow, or hope.
Overall, I would recommend this book to any teenagers or adults seeking a novel about mental health that helps the reader to gain insight on the truth about anxiety. While anxiety may be difficult to accurately write about, I feel Whaley set a new standard with Highly Illogical Behavior.