THE SUNDAY REVIEW | FINDING AUDREY – SOPHIE KINSELLA

 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.Goodreads

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This is the new novel by Sophie Kinsella (aka Madeleine Wickham), who you will probably know for her “chick-lit” novels, in particular the Shopaholic series which follows the preposterous and hilarious mis-steps of one Becky Bloomwood. Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first foray into the young adult genre, and though it echoes the feel of her other work, it takes on more serious issues.

Our main character, as we slowly learn, is dealing with (and forgive me if I get this terminology wrong) a severe anxiety disorder following a traumatic event. Her symptoms include social anxiety (she finds it hard to be touched by, in the same room as or make eye contact with people outside her family and wears dark sunglasses at all times) and panic attacks.

When we meet her she isn’t able to leave the house alone and can’t handle talking to strangers or being in public places. She’s in therapy, which is helping her cope, and she is learning how to mitigate her debilitating and frightening panic attacks.

Enter Linus, a friend of her brother’s who comes over to play video games. He winds up being the first new person Audrey has wanted to talk to (let alone be in a room with) in months. But it’s not easy to get to know someone when you have an anxiety disorder. You can’t control your physical reaction to the situations that cause anxiety, even when you really, really want to.

This is Audrey’s story, but it’s also the story of her family, and how they attempt to help her while dealing with their own issues – both related to Audrey’s condition and not. Each, in their own way, tries to understand and help Audrey.

I found exactly what I expected in this book – an entertaining read that, sure, didn’t have a whole ton of depth, but was a fun counterpoint to the more weighty novels I’ve been reading recently. The tone and feel were reminiscent of her other work, so if you are a Kinsella fan, this will likely be the perfect summer read for you.

I was also pleased that it had a bit less of the Shopaholic series’ more irritating character flaws (I had trouble with Becky’s vapidness and Luke’s condescension). It did still have some troublesome characters – I had a particularly hard time with the mother, who was too over-the-top for me. I found it hard to stick with any sections focusing on her or take her remotely seriously. I wished she’d been toned down a bit because her character had the potential for such depth – it was hinted at towards the end and I wanted more of that conflicted character.

The other aspect of this book which needs to be addressed is actually one I come to second-hand. I don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, nor have I been close enough to someone who does to have an accurate understanding of the common symptoms or treatment. However I have seen and heard mixed responses to Kinsella’s portrayal of a character suffering from an anxiety disorder. I’ve seen criticism of both the description of her symptoms (as being inaccurate) and how Linus’ influence affects her. I had a few moments in the story that didn’t quite ring true for me, but because my knowledge is so peripheral, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. However, I do think this is one area where your response will very much depend on your own experience and knowledge of the underlying condition.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It was both easy to get into and a quick read. It’ll definitely scratch that Kinsella itch! Finding Audrey is the perfect book if you’re looking for something light and entertaining, with characters who are charismatic and easy to get to know.

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**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**
Book Title: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Doubleday Canada
Released: June 4, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Family
Pages: 288

Date Read: June 4-9, 2015
Rating: 6/10

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