Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Published by: Random House
Publication date: 4th June 2015
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Mental Health/Family
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
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Audrey can't leave the house. She can't even take off her dark glasses inside the house - a house that her totally chaotic but well-meaning family fill to the brim with their big personalities and loud voices.
Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey suddenly feels she can do things she'd thought were too scary.
Even when it's two steps forward and one step back, suddenly finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.
Finding Audrey is one of those books that you finish feeling stunned. I was so impressed that I was rendered speechless for a while, before excitedly reaching for my laptop so I could tell you all about it.
I think, finally, we have a book that deals with anxiety and panic attacks properly.
Despite having seen Confessions of a Shopaholic and loving it when I was younger, this is the first of Kinsella's books that I've read, and I have come to the conclusion that she is amazing. At first, the writing style irritated me and it was very random. Audrey would be talking about something and then suddenly say, "Whatever. Anyway. Moving on." or "Actually, that's kind of irrelevant." That made it hard to follow because Audrey kept jumping from one topic to another, but this straightened out within the first few pages and I ended up really enjoying the chatty style.
More importantly, though, is that Kinsella clearly did her research. I was shocked when, in her therapy sessions, Audrey was asked exactly the same questions I'm asked in mine. A quote which especially resonated with me:
"I've sat in enough rooms with teachers, doctors, regurgitating the same story, using the same words, till it starts to feel like something that happened to someone else."
Plus, I think it was great that we got to 'be with' Audrey in her therapy sessions, because lots of people suffering with anxiety who read the book and aren't being treated for their illness could benefit a little from that, as there was some valuable stuff in there.
Mainly, I'm really happy that the person with anxiety - Audrey - was proactive. She was constantly trying to get better, and even had exposure therapy. She reminded me a lot of myself. I've done exposure therapy - in fact, I'm still doing it - and it's incredibly helpful, yet this is the first book I've read on anxiety where the person suffering has actually done it. Usually in fiction, the person with anxiety mopes around waiting to be cured. Seeing such a proactive character trying so many methods to get better will be valuable and inspirational for many, I'm sure.
Lots of books focusing on mental health are sloppy. That's not the case with Finding Audrey. Kinsella wrote about anxiety and panic attacks so, so well and, for me, described it perfectly. I was hugely impressed, and I'm happy that a book like this exists.
The romance aspect to the book was cute, and it was nice to see Audrey so happy all of a sudden. Linus was great and I loved that he was willing to go along with what Audrey had to do to feel comfortable and less anxious. However - and this doesn't really apply to Finding Audrey, because Audrey sought proper treatment - it irritates me that most YA books that I've read about mental health problems usually go along the lines of: person has mental illness. Person meets love interest. Person is now cured. Some people will relate to that. Just because that's not my experience doesn't mean it's not anyone else's. But, especially when these books are aimed at young people, I think other forms of treatment should be explored, like in Finding Audrey. Recovering is seriously hard work, and I think books that go along the lines of what I described before romanticise that.
But back on a positive note: as part of her therapy, Audrey had to make a short documentary of her family as if she was a fly on the wall, and this meant we got to see a couple of pages of script every once in a while. I don't usually enjoy things like that, but this was done really well and often made me laugh, especially when her sarcastic older brother, Frank, was involved.
I wish my friends would read this book. I feel like this would give anyone not going through anxiety a really good understanding of it, even down to things you shouldn't say to the person with the anxiety, e.g when Linus says, "Why can't you just snap out of it?" and Audrey replies, "Don't you think I've tried?!" I think I actually cheered at that point.
Overall, this is an amazing book and I can't recommend it enough. It's fun, it's quick, it's cute, but it also focuses on deeper topics with maturity and responsibility. I can only hope Kinsella writes more for the YA genre.