This book revolves around three characters; Solomon, Lisa and Clark. Solomon is a reclusive agoraphobic with severe anxiety disorder and, at seventeen, has not left his house for over three years. Lisa is a girl from his middle school who remembers him having a breakdown in the school fountain on his last day of school. Clark is Lisa’s boyfriend. There are other incidentals; Solomon’s grandma is my favourite character in the book, when you read it you’ll see why.
Lisa wants out of Upland, California. She thinks it’s a dead end place and her future is brighter than that. Her plan is to get into the second best psychology course in the country with a full scholarship. In order to do this she needs to write an essay about her personal experience with mental illness. She decides that her essay will be about Solomon, primarily her saving Solomon and making him ‘normal’ again. The snag is, she’s not going to tell Solomon she’s doing it.
She does tell Clark though, and he agrees to go along with it. She discovers that Solomon is warm and intelligent and fun to be with – and gay. As they become closer she realizes that Solomon has a lot in common with Clark and asks him if Clark can come over too. A strong friendship develops between the three of them and they spend most of their time together. Lisa starts to have doubts about the paper but thinks it all a means to an end so she continues with it. Clark meanwhile, is not happy at all.
Stuff happens that I can’t tell you about but needless to say, the ending is kind of predictable. The book deals with some big issues. Mental health and sexuality are the two big ones but there are other sub themes as well. The relationships with the young people and God are explored too. Lisa’s best friend Janis is religious and goes to a religious summer camp; Clark and Lisa don’t have sex and his mum is also religious so that may be the cause, not that they have discussed it all! Lisa assumes that her relationship with Clark is a. normal and b. strong enough to withstand anything but really it’s a relationship based on non information and assumptions; the consequences of which will hurt Solomon as well as them. Solomon, on the other hand, almost makes you want to just stay at home and never leave; his life is definitely pretty easy. With the inclusion of friends though, it starts to make him question why he has made the decision to leave the outside world behind.
Essentially Solomon won’t change and, although Lisa does make some breakthroughs, his problems are bigger than she can solve. She comes to realize that Solomon needs a lot of help to change and, most importantly, he must want to change his life – and he really doesn’t want to!
This is a quick and thought-provoking read which will introduce you some nice characters that will stay with you for a while. Everyone would probably like a break from the madness of life, but where’s the fun in that?!
Further Reading: Noggin by John Corey Whaley