By John Corey Whaley
Dial Books | Penguin Random House, 2016
Solomon Reed is 16 years old, and he is an agoraphobic - he doesn't go outside... ever. His last outdoor experience was outside his junior high school when he just couldn't take it any more, stripped off his clothes and sat in the fountain.
Lisa Praytor is 17, and intent upon getting into a particular university to study psychology, but needs to win a scholarship to pay for it. The scholarship requires that she write an essay about her personal experience with mental illness. She saw Solomon in the fountain that day. She knows he hasn't been outside since then. She decides she's going to fix him.
Solomon has an excellent family, parents who support him however they can, at least they all get along, though they do wonder if he will ever get on with his life like other child-turned-adult could be expected to do. He also has a terrific grandmother who's inclined to say it as it is. She's a great character in her own right, not just in her support of Sol. She's a real estate agent and not the grandmotherly type at all. When Sol tells her that he misses the water she's in action immediately, organising for a pool to be built in the back yard.
Then there's Lisa's boyfriend Clark. A wholesome young man who isn't at all interested in having sex with her, though she's very keen and worries that he's not. He loves his home town, being part of a big family, and doesn't understand Lisa's desire to escape. He's not too thrilled when she starts spending a lot of time with Sol, after he surprisingly says she can come and visit him at home. They are instant friends, but it's even better when Clark starts coming over too. He and Sol have a lot in common, including a passion for Star Trek. (Sol and his dad even did up the garage to look like a holodeck, which becomes quite a focal point late in the book.)
I loved seeing everyone's relationships developing, never quite sure how Sol will react to any changes. We see him make progress, but never enough to be 'normal'. I don't want to reveal any more of the story, just to introduce you to the intriguing cast that I so enjoyed.
I've always been quite intrigued by people who take an extreme option to save their mental health - like becoming a selective mute (read Annabel Pitcher's YA novel Silence is goldfish), or never going outside like Solomon. What measures do the rest of us take to save our sanity?
This YA novel has an empathetic focus on mental health issues, and sexuality, in a fresh genuine manner. From award-winner author John Corey Whaley, who you can read more about here.