I finished reading Highly Illogical Behavior in a matter of days. This emotion-packed story is sure to keep you engaged and invested in the lie of Solomon Reed. Keep reading for my review of Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley.
Highly Illogical Behavior tells the story of Solomon Reed, a 16-year-old boy who likes Star Trek and the board game Munchkin. He also happens to be agoraphobic. After a severe panic attack led to Solomon stripping down and laying in the fountain in the middle of his school, he decided that avoiding things that make you panic seemed like a valid solution.
Lisa Praytor is a 17-year-old girl whose only goal in life is to get into the second-best psychology program in the country. (She wants to be realistic, so she doesn’t try for the best.) When Lisa realizes that she doesn’t have much experience with mental illness, she decides to seek out Solomon Reed, the boy who had a “nervous breakdown” in the fountain a few years prior. She’s convinced that if she can “fix” him, she’ll be able to write an acceptance-worthy essay.
My Review of Highly Illogical Behavior
When I saw Highly Illogical Behavior on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to have it. The cover is beautiful, and I’ve made it my personal mission to own as many YAMI (Young Adult Mental Illness) novels as humanly possible.
I’ll be honest; I don’t know a ton about Agoraphobia. It’s not one of the mental illnesses I’m super familiar with. Because of my lack of knowledge, it’s hard for me to determine if the illness was portrayed accurately or not. However, given that Whaley wrote the story based on his own experience with severe panic disorder, I feel that the author did his due diligence to ensure the story wasn’t exaggerated. While we did witness Solomon having severe panic attacks, some of which even included self-harm in the form of slapping himself, Whaley cut out most of the drama that we see in Hollywood movies about agoraphobes.
A couple of things that I didn’t like about the book (Minor spoilers):
- The main character, Solomon, is gay. He falls head over heels in love with Lisa’s boyfriend, Clark. The reason I’m not crazy about this is that it feels forced. Almost as if Solomon HAS to like Clark just because he’s the only other guy Solomon talks to. In addition, Lisa tries to convince Clark (HER boyfriend, mind you) that he’s gay when he’s clearly stated that he isn’t. Her reasons for believing Clark is gay are as follows: 1. He won’t have sex with her. 2. He’s on the water polo team. 3. He enjoys spending time with Solomon. To me, these all felt like cop-out ways of causing added tension to the story rather than an authentic representation of the LGBT+ community.
- The next thing that I was confused by was Clark’s reasoning for not wanting to have sex with Lisa. While this piece of the plot adds to the uncertainty of Clark’s sexual orientation, there’s never really a clear answer as to why he won’t be physically involved with Lisa. Originally, he says he wants to wait for religious reasons, but by the end of the book, he admits that he’s just not feeling connected to Lisa anymore. I’m not in any way implying that Clark should give into the pressure of having sex before he’s ready… Rather, I think it would have been nice if we had some more context as to his reasoning.
- At the end of the novel, Lisa writes her letter to the college to apply for the psychology program. Instead of her original intention of using her experience with Solomon to prove that she could “fix” him, Lisa goes on a rant about how awful she was. While I’m glad that she recognized how terrible her behavior was, I wish she had turned it into a learning experience and written about what she learned. Instead, her letter is filled with ramblings and curse words.
One thing that I admire about Highly Illogical Behavior is the presence of Solomon’s parents. In YAMI novels, we often see parents portrayed as absent or abusive. By including parents who support Solomon and do their best to understand him rather than “fix” him, Whaley acknowledges that mental illness isn’t always a direct result of poor parenting. In fact, in one interview, Whaley says that his entire goal was to “show that there are good parents that exist.”
I also enjoyed Whaley’s descriptions of anxiety/panic attacks. He refers to them as “feeling loopy,” which is a great explanation. Whaley depicts Solomon’s anxiety attacks as exactly that – attacks. There’s no romanticizing, no “but look how I grew from this.” Instead, he says it how it is: It sucks. He shows what it’s like to have to hide your panic from your friends, but he also characterizes Lisa as patient and understanding. She helps Solomon count to ten through the panic attacks and reminds him that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Clark, on the other hand, is unsure of what to do when Solomon begins panicking. In most cases, he just pretends the panic attack isn’t happening. While Clark’s response isn’t the best one, it is a realistic one. If the book only had characters who knew perfectly how to act when someone was having a panic attack, I would be taking half a star off of my review for lack of realism.
Most of these content warnings are consistent with what we see in Young Adult literature nowadays, but here they are nonetheless.
- Cursing, including the “F” word, present throughout the novel
- Talk of sex and nudity, though no sex actually occurs during the novel
- Self-Harm in the form of hitting
- LGBT+ Characters
Have you read Highly Illogical Behavior yet? When you’re finished with it, check out my review of Take Me With You When You Go to see if it’s a good fit for your next read.