I’ve always loved Sophie Kinsella’s books. They’re full to the brim with humour, warmth and I always seem to find myself learning a little from each book I read.
When I was presented with the chance to read Kinsella’s latest offering I couldn’t have been more excited. The slight difference with this novel compared to her others is that Kinsella has written this book for a different audience – this is for young adults.
I pushed aside any fear I had regarding this fact – everyone was young once and, just because Kinsella’s books are normally about grown women, it didn’t mean Finding Audrey would be a haphazard attempt at portraying what modern life is like for a teenager.
What struck me the most about this book though was that it was going to address the issues of social anxiety and, being a sufferer of anxiety myself, I couldn’t wait for there to be another book for this age group that addressed these serious issues that affect more and more teens each year.
Finding Audrey focuses on our main character called Audrey who is the long suffering daughter of a Daily Mail obsessed mother, the sister of a computer game obsessed older brother and a young, innocent-ish little brother plus a father who slots into the crazy world of Audrey’s family perfectly.
Audrey is different to others her age – she wears dark glasses (even in the dark) and refuses to leave the house, spending days curled up on the sofa watching TV and refusing to communicate with the outside world. It isn’t until her brother’s friend, Linus, comes into Audrey’s home that she begins to feel that someone other than her family might just understand her. Through a series of written messages and one-sided conversations, Audrey and Linus begin to communicate and Audrey finds that the small, claustrophobic boundaries that she’s set up around herself might actually be worth breaking after all.
I adored this beautiful novel. I had a small, niggling feeling as the plot progressed that everything was working out too perfectly and it didn’t present the most realistic picture of what it is like to live with crippling anxiety. But, after feeling this, I realised why this book is perfect – it presents a positive picture, it demonstrates and proves that things inevitably will get better, that taking a step from your comfort zone and having the courage to face the anxiety in the face is the bravest thing you can ever do.
Audrey was a fascinating character that I felt was a beautiful amalgamation and representation of a whole host of teenage anxieties and worries: self-doubt, embarrassment, confusion and most of all the sense that the world is never going to be a place that fully understands who you are. Over the course of the novel she flourishes into such a beautiful and capable young woman and I felt a burgeoning sense of pride the more I read. Every time she took a step into the unknown or did something that scared her I just wanted to hug her tightly and tell her just how amazing she was.
My favourite character had to be Audrey’s mum. Fanatical about the Daily Mail and consistently relaying information she felt relevant to her children’s lives, she provided such a humour that helped to dispel the rather more serious and sensitive issues in the book. Her addiction to believing everything she read went a long way in cementing Audrey’s belief that what went on in the world around her was something she’d rather not be part of. However, just like Audrey, her mum learns that sometimes living life isn’t about conforming to set rules and being afraid of what’s around you, it’s about embracing the new, the scary and the different and being ok with it.
As someone who has been through and continues to go through a daily battle with anxiety, it is so refreshing and comforting to find fiction that so accurately portrays what it can be like in the loneliest moments of mental illness. Audrey is so lucky, as was I, to be surrounded by a network of people willing enough to help and understanding enough to realise that the process of recovery isn’t one that happens overnight. For those who aren’t as fortunate, I hope books like Finding Audrey can provide them with that much craved comfort and understanding and help them to feel that everything can, and will, get better.
This is a truly astonishing book that deserves to be a bestseller and be on every teen’s reading list. It wouldn’t surprise me if this book ended up being taught in schools and used as recommended reading for teenagers everywhere. It was gorgeous and perfect and I loved it. I only wish I could have read a book like this when I was fifteen.