‘Highly Illogical Behavior’ by John Corey Whaley: Friendship at Its Strongest, and Nerdiest (Book Review)
It’s easy to get sucked into Solomon Reed’s world – not just because it’s so small, but because Highly Illogical Behavior is so inviting that you won’t want to put the book down until the last page. Solomon Reed is an agoraphobe, and this is the story of his first real friendships and how they almost fell apart.
From John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back and Noggin, Highly Illogical Behavior alternates between third-person narration from 16-year-old Solomon and the ambitious 17-year-old aspiring psychologist Lisa Praytor. Solomon (or Sol, or the even more depressing nickname "Solo") is a Star Trek: The Next Generation-obsessed agoraphobe who makes light of his situation by calling himself a crazy recluse. He’s a funny kid, with amazingly positive parents who've let him ditch his therapist and stay indoors the past three years, to take online courses and hang out with them and his gift-giving realtor grandmother.
Sol's parents want more for their son, but he's happy with his life (minus the anxiety attacks, which are much more prevalent than his parents know). He doesn’t think he needs anything outside the front door – that is, until dreams of having a pool surface, and a new friend shoves her way into his life.
Enter Lisa Praytor. Lisa is desperate to leave Upland, California and ascend to the top of her class in psychology at an east coast university. To do that, she must write an essay on “My Personal Experience With Mental Illness,” and decides tracking down Solomon to “cure” him is the best way to do it. She squeezes her way into the Reed household through Sol's dentist mom (good molars, bad morals, Lisa).
Though her home life is rough, her enthusiasm at using Solomon as test subject for her essay makes Lisa completely despicable at first. Fortunately, Whaley finds plenty of ways to build sympathy for her character.
And then there's Lisa’s charming boyfriend Clark, who has tired of his water polo team buds and just wants someone to nerd-out with without it all being “a pissing contest.” Lisa drags him to meet Sol, and the two are immediately enamored with each other in a bromance sort of way.
It's odd that we don’t get Clark's point of view, since he's so important to Lisa and Sol's character growth, but he's still an integral part to the story. Clark basically serves as Lisa’s conscience and voice of reason, and at times stands for everything that Sol wants to become.
Reading this book will turn you into a mini-agoraphobe for a few hours, trapped wherever you are until you finish the final words. Whaley brings the tiniest details to life, from a garage-turned-holodeck to the euphoric feeling of being underwater.
Don’t expect serious action or any sort of heavy romance. There are definitely moments that will make your heart race, but they’re the nuanced moments in the life of someone with anxiety that Whaley has elevated for the reader's own understanding. The way Sol’s suffering is explained and described in this book – in so many colorful shades – is the truest and most understandable description in a YA book I’ve read so far.
Sol's anxiety is heartbreaking; and the struggle his parents go though is painful, but Whaley doesn't let either of those things get in the way of the story, or the friendship at the heart of it. The underlying sadness takes a backseat, though it's still important. If anything, the story maintains the happy-sad emotion of an indie film.
In addition, there's so much life and realness to these characters, you find ways to love them all — even Lisa, who comes off as a major brat at first. The trio's personalities complement each other in an endearing, nerdy friendship.
Whaley’s writing is also exceptionally clever and witty. Favorite lines include, “There was no denying it. Now he knew it to be absolutely true: He had a friend. And he was terrified of her.” And: “you’re like Lady Macbeth without the murder.”
There are setbacks throughout Highly Illogical Behavior, and surely setbacks to come if we were to see into these character’s futures – adding to the bright and crisp world that Whaley has given us. Overall, Highly Illogical Behavior is a great read with a lot of heart, and characters that you’ll seriously want to pal around with – even Lisa. Maybe.
Release date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
PopCrush rating: 5/5
I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.