I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed a novel on this web site by international bestselling author Sophie Kinsella before. How could that happen? Sheesh – what an oversight! I love her fun Shopaholic series for adult readers. And now she’s branched out into YA territory with Finding Audrey. Not only will current fans of her novels find just as much to love with this one but I predict teen readers will love her quirky style. Finding Audrey is about family, bullying, gaming, and just how hard it is to be a teen any time but especially in the digital age. I’m excited to host a pay-it-forward giveaway for the copy I was sent, so be sure to enter to win it for yourself or your favorite teen reader!
Fourteen-year-old Audrey’s life has changed radically since the incident and she’s not sure she will ever be the same again. She knows everybody thinks she should have gotten over it by now but she just can’t, and that’s causing big problems for her and everyone around her. It’s not like she can just shake it off and pretend it never happened.
Her family has been very supportive and understanding. They all practically walk on eggshells trying to not do anything to cause Audrey to regress. Still, it’s put an enormous strain on all of them. For example, her mom quit a job she loved and was very successful at just so she could be there for Audrey. The only problem with that, well not the only problem but still, is that her mom likes to hyper-focus on things and she’s making the whole family just a little nuts with her obsessive need to fix them like they are her new work project or something.
So what’s going on with Audrey? Audrey developed an anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and depression after the incident. Basically she’s now terrified of the whole world. She’s been seeing a therapist and she is making progress but it’s so horribly slow. What people probably don’t understand is that she really doesn’t want to be this way. She’d give anything for her life to be normal again, but she just can’t seem to make it happen no matter how hard she tries. Every time she even thinks about going outside the house, or even talking to someone, her whole body reacts in a really extreme way and she’s like a deer caught in the headlights. She can’t even go near the front door much less out of it. Let’s just say that panic attacks suck big time.
And the decision has been made that she’s going back to school in the Fall. WTH?! Given, it won’t be the same school so she won’t have to be reminded of what happened but still…how is she going to go to school when she can’t look people in the eye or go to the front door. Hello? Minor detail there. She knows everyone wants their lives and her life to go back to normal, and she’s pushing as hard as she can toward that goal, but she is definitely nowhere near there and she just doesn’t know if she ever will be. How depressing is that?
Audrey’s older brother, Frank, is starting to catch grief from their mom because he spends so much time gaming on the computer, playing Land of Conquerors. He basically eats, sleeps, and drinks gaming. Getting him to more than grunt when you talk to him is a non-starter. Frank and his gaming is her mom’s latest project after she read an article in the Daily Mail, The Eight Signs Your Child Is Addicted to Computer Games.
“’But I need my computer!’ [says Frank.]
‘You do not need your computer!’ Mum yells, so furiously that I flinch.
‘Mommy 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…
‘Yes, and then the computer will break,’ says Frank fiercely. ‘And you won’t be able to play Star Wars ever again, ever.’
Felix’ face crumples in dismay and Mum flinches with fresh anger.
‘Frank!’ she yells. ‘Do not upset your brother!’
Now our neighbors across the close, the McDuggans, have come out to watch…
’Let me do this, Chris,’ says Mum warningly, and I can see Dad gulp. My dad is tall and handsome in a car advert way, and he looks like the boss, but inside he isn’t really an alpha male.
No, that sounds bad. He’s alpha in a lot of ways, I suppose. Only Mum is even more alpha. She’s strong and bossy and pretty and bossy.
I said bossy twice, didn’t I?
Well. Draw your own conclusions from that.
‘I know you’re angry, sweetheart,’ Dad’s saying soothingly. ‘But isn’t this a little extreme?’
‘Extreme? He’s extreme! He’s addicted, Chris!’”
Frank has been working day and night in preparation for an international gaming tournament that he’s determined to win…if only he can keep his computer intact long enough. He’s invited a fellow gamer, Linus, over to strategize and practice.
When Audrey sees Linus, she freaks out inside and is determined to be Ms. Invisible so she won’t have to confront the humiliation of how she’s reacting to him. So she does the most humiliating thing – she runs from him and hides behind a curtain. OMG – how horrific is that? Sigh – if only she could be normal again. To make matters worse, when she sneaks a glance at Linus from behind her sunglasses (yes, she wears sunglasses even inside – don’t ask), he’s jaw-droppingly handsome. Damn. That is so not fair. Here she is acting like a complete basket case and probably the cutest guy on the planet was just right in front of her. Life can be so unfair.
“’And how do you feel about what happened?’ she [Dr. Sarah] says in that kind, unruffled voice she has.
‘I feel stuck.’
The word stuck comes out before I’ve even thought it. I didn’t know I felt stuck.
‘I’ve been ill forever.’
‘Not forever,’ she says in calm tones. ‘I first met you…’ She consults her computer screen. ‘March sixth. You’d probably been ill for a while before that without realizing it. But the good news is you’ve come such a long way, Audrey. You’re improving every day.’
‘Improving?’ I break off, trying to speak calmly. ‘I’m supposed to be starting a new school in September. I can’t even talk to people. One new person comes to the house and I freak out. How can I go to school? How can I do anything? What if I’m like this forever?’…
‘You’ve made marked progress since treatment began.’ She continues. ‘It’s still only May. I have every confidence you will be ready for school in September. But it will require – ‘
‘I know.’ I hunch my arms around my body. ‘Persistence, practice, and patience.’”
When Linus comes over to see Frank again, he’s actually nice and kind to her even after she acted like such a loony. Damn, damn, damn. When she can’t talk to him, they begin to write notes back and forth – not while in the same room, of course. That would be more than she could handle at the moment. He seems so understanding of what’s going on with her. Wow! Is he for real or is he just being nice because Frank told him to be? He acts like he might even like her but that can’t possibly be true. How could anyone like someone like her, someone who acts like she’s totally messed up?
Audrey had what therapists sometimes call a #1 trauma and her mind went into extreme survival mode to protect her. Being a teen when everything is going well is anxiety producing on even the best day; however, to have something like that happen is devastating. Underneath all the angst, Audrey is a lot of fun just waiting to get out again. Her family is probably the poster child for quirky, and their dynamics have also changed because of the changes in Audrey. Poor Frank is in for it re his gaming, giving her mom something to focus on that she feels she can control, unlike Audrey’s condition, which she can’t. Felix is the only one who is completely oblivious to what’s going on – and his joyous antics are a ton of fun. Linus? Well, you’ll have to discover Linus for yourself.
Some people look back on their high school years as the best of their life. In some ways, they are wonderful because you’re just beginning to stretch beyond your family and make attempts at declaring independence; however, that also makes them some of the hardest years and the most angst ridden. I think Sophie Kinsella has done an excellent job in Finding Audrey of portraying what it’s like to be a teen in the 21st century, while inserting her trademark sense of humor into very serious issues. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to any teen or parent of a teen because I think both could learn a lot while having a great time reading it. I had planned to read it a bit at a time over several days but I liked it so much that I read it in one sitting.
Can’t wait to read it?
Finding Audrey was published on June 9, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). If you download it as an ebook, you can have it to read instantly!
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One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance readers copy) of Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 6/27/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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