Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 9, 2015
Genres: young adult, contemporary (romance), mental health/mental illness
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I haven’t read the Shopaholic series, I’ll admit, so this was my first Sophie Kinsella novel. But, after reading this, I might consider checking out her other books. Because I enjoyed this a lot.
This book gives us a glimpse into the life of Audrey Turner–a girl struggling with a severe anxiety disorder–and the life of the rest of the Turners. It’s a life full of Mom’s hilarious overdramatics, Dad’s awkward yet heartwarming quirks, and Audrey’s brother’s video-games. It’s a life Audrey’s brother’s friend Linus gets to experience when he starts coming over to the Turners’ to hang out. Linus and Audrey form a connection that allows Audrey to, in turn, connect with the outside world, and delve a little deeper into her anxiety, helping her grow.
There are several things this book did very well, and the first was the portrayal of mental illness. Audrey sees a therapist regularly, and this therapist reminds her–quite accurately–that recovery and progress with a mental illness is not linear; there are highs and lows no matter where you are in your life journey. (For those worried Linus will “fix” Audrey: He tries, thinking that mental illness is something that can be “fixed,” but, while Linus helps Audrey make progress, he doesn’t heal her. There’s a very important distinction there, and it makes for a very realistic portrayal of love and relationships with others: other people cannot fix us, but they can definitely make for smoother sailing.) This book shows us some of those highs and lows, taking a very real issue (anxiety) and giving us a very honest, accurate depiction of it.
The result is some great messages about anxiety, mental illness, and recovery in general:
I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.
We don’t have to reveal everything to each other. It’s OK to be private. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to share that.’
It really hits anxiety and depression right on the mark. I can’t even begin to describe how accurate this is:
The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying “I’m fine” to people when you’re not fine. You think you SHOULD be fine. You keep saying to yourself: “Why aren’t I fine?”
So, yes, I loved the way this book handled mental illness. I wish we had more books like these.
I also love the Turner family. They’re so strange, but so normal, too? Whose mom doesn’t freak out over the smallest things sometimes? Whose Dad doesn’t make awkward jokes? Whose parents don’t have more than their fair share of awkward moments? Whose children don’t roll their eyes at their parents when their parents are overracting (and aren’t they always? Love you, Mom. 😉 ) This book was so relatable, giving us a flawed, messy family in all its humorous glory. I laughed out loud for over half the book.
Linus is sweet, too. He’s understanding, relaxed, and, well…normal. He’s a normal boy, just like the Turners are a normal family. But somehow that makes all of them more special. I enjoyed Linus’s interactions with the Turners and with Audrey and her brother, specifically; they were fun to read. His romance with Audrey was also cute, if a bit rushed at the very end.
One thing I wish this book would have done (besides making the romance a liiiittle slower at the end) was dive a little deeper into what sparked Audrey’s anxiety. We know there’s an incident at school, but we don’t know much about it. The ending felt kind of abrupt, and I was left wanting more closure on how Audrey’s learning to cope with her disorder, just a tad more on how she’d come to accept it as a part of her. (And that acceptance is a constant process.) I felt a little cheated when I closed the book, because I didn’t get the opportunity to understand/experience Audrey’s anxiety as much as I’d hoped. The book could’ve dug just a little deeper, but we didn’t get there, which left me kind of bummed.
All in all, this is a funny, sweet story with an honest look into mental illness and family life. Pick it up if you’d like a heartwarming contemporary read, or you’re in the mood for a good laugh.