Book: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Age Range: 12 and up
Finding Audrey is the first young adult title by bestselling novelist Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic series, etc.). Finding Audrey is about a teenage girl who had a mental breakdown after an episode of bullying at her all-girl school. Audrey spent six weeks in a mental hospital. As the story begins, she is recovering at home, planning to start at a different school in the fall (one grade lower).
Audrey panics easily, wears dark glasses to avoid any eye contact, and takes various medications to fight anxiety and depression. Her only contact is with her family and her therapist, though she eventually lets her older brother's friend, Linus, into her previously closed world. Finding Audrey chronicles the ups and downs of Audrey's progress over several months, as well as her growing relationship with Linus, and the interactions of her quirky family.
I quite liked the fact that Kinsella resists making Finding Audrey an issue book about bullying. We never even learn the details of what happened to Audrey, and that's ok. Instead, we see the impact that the incident has had on her vulnerable mental state, and the impact on her family.
Also, despite being about depression and mental illness, Finding Audrey is not a depressing book. In fact, it's quite funny in parts (helped out by Audrey's quirky Mom and sarcastic older brother). Here's the beginning of the book:
"OMG, Mum's gone insane.
Not normal Mum-insane. Serious insane.
Normal Mum-insane: Mum says, "Let's all do this great gluten-free diet I read about in the Daily Mail!" Mum buys three loaves of gluten-free bread. It's so disgusting our mouths curl up. The family goes on strike and Mum hides her sandwich in the flower bed and next week we're not gluten-free anymore." (Page 1)
And there's this:
"(I've often noticed that people equate "having a sense of humour" with "being an insensitive moron.") (Page 5)
See what I mean? Audrey has an entertaining and engaging voice. Even when she is down, she maintains a certain black humor. Like this:
"Dad says it's totally understandable and I've been through a trauma and now I'm like a small baby who panics as soon as it's handed to someone it doesn't know. I've seen those babies, and they go from happy and gurgling to howling in a heartbeat Well, I don't howl. Not quite.
But I feel like howling." (Page 38)
Yes, Kinsella has a deft touch all around for Audrey's voice. Audrey's little brother Felix is also a source of humor. Like this:
"Mummy is going to throw the computer!" says Felix, running onto the grass and looking up in disbelieving joy. Felix is our little brother. He's four. He greets most life events with disbelieving joy. A lorry in the street! Ketchup! An extra-long chip! Mum throwing a computer out of the window is just another one on the list of daily miracles." (Page 2)
In truth Felix felt like he was included for the sole purpose of entertainment value. But, as the mother of a five year old, I still enjoyed him. The other secondary characters are well-developed. Mum is a bit over-the-top, perhaps, and Linus a bit too good to be true, but these characteristics both work in the context of the story.
As the earlier quote shows, Finding Audrey is set in England, and does include British vocabulary. I've read enough British books to know that a lorry is a truck and a chip is a french fry, but some readers may have to make a slight mental adjustment. Personally, I stopped noticing any cultural shift early in the book, as my focus honed in on the characters.
Finding Audrey takes the serious subjects of mental illness and depression and renders them accessible to teen readers. Kinsella accomplishes this through Audrey's unflinching first-person viewpoint. Finding Audrey never feels message-driven (Bullying is bad! Care about your fellow student!). It feels, rather, like an interesting story about a character that the reader will care about. I think that Kinsella did a fine job of finding the right balance here, and I hope that Finding Audrey finds its way into the hands of many teens. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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