"Highly Illogical Behavior" by John Corey Whaley
When I saw that John Corey Whaley – author of Where Things Come Back, which I loved and Noggin, which I liked – had a new book out, picking up a copy seemed highly logical...pun fully intended.
The weird thing about Whaley’s books is that I’ve enjoyed all of them…this one included, but I’ll get to that in a minute…however, I couldn’t really tell you why I enjoyed them – which, I guess, is sort of the point of a book review so, fail.
When I try to articulate the reason for my Whaley penchant all that comes to mind is authenticity. I feel a connection to the world in Whaley’s books…probably because it is our world…which he captures with masterful precision.
It’s ironic, then, that the reason I couldn't quite give Highly Illogical Behavior five cocktails is because I found the authenticity of his characters ever so slightly wanting.
Just as in his prior works, Whaley captured what it’s like to live where we live, when we live. That wasn’t the issue. The struggle for me came from the fact that it all felt a bit…flat.
This book has dual protagonists, Solomon, a gay, teenage, agoraphobe and Lisa, a straight, industrious, junior, eager to get into America’s second best college for psychology. To get into this college – or at least to get the full-ride she needs due to family issues that aren’t fully explained (see 2 paragraphs down) – Lisa needs to write an essay on her “personal experience with mental health”. Eager to make her essay stand out, she arranges to befriend Solomon, who she remembers from an unfortunately nearly-nude fountain incident when they were both middleschoolers.
In the beginning, I was intrigued by their burgeoning relationship. Solomon is the type of person I would want to be friends with, so I was rooting for him from the start. But as I continued reading through various states of personal caffeination and intoxication, I started to feel like something was missing.
As readers, we were never really made privy to what made Solomon the way he was – he just was. And as for Lisa, we were given snippets of information. We know, for example, that she is raised by a “single” mom who is going through what we are made to believe is just one in a long string of breakups.
But I wanted more.
I wanted Whaley to plump up his characters a bit by providing JUST A LITTLE more backstory. I mean, I get it. This isn’t about what happened before, it’s about what’s happening now. But, in the absence of this information, I am left feeling like this is all a bit too convenient – a bit too contrived.
All that being said, however, the world Whaley built was believable and engaging. The characters were likable and, at the end of the day, I did root for them – even Lisa, who was ever so slightly a b*tch.
Whaley has a way of taking words and weaveingthem into a blanket that you just want to curl up in. Reading a John Corey Whaley book just feels good. And this one was no exception.
I fully recommend this book -- 4 out of 5 cocktails!
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