Friday, 27 January 2017

'Finding Audrey' by Sophie Kinsella

Image result for finding audrey
*This review will contain spoilers!*
'You still want to know, don't you? You're still curious. I mean, I don't blame you. 
Here's the thing: does it matter exactly why those girls were excluded? It's irrelevant. It happened. Done. Over. I'd rather not go into it.'
'OMG, Mum's gone insane. Not normal Mum-insane. Serious insane.'
This made me physically recoil. A book about a character suffering with social anxiety disorder, general anxiety disorder and depressive episode throwing the word 'insane' around without hesitation? That doesn't seem right to me.

Fourteen-year-old Audrey Turner hasn't been back to school since an unspecified incident including bullying and anxiety. She now stays at home reading all day, keeping herself to herself in her darkroom den and dreading starting at a new school in September. 
Audrey's mother is not impressed that her brother Frank (yep, Frank Turner...) is obsessed with video games. He constantly plays a MMORPG called 'League of Conquerors', certain that his team will be able to win the six-million-dollar prize offered at a tournament in America. She cajoles him and threatens him to use the computer less, but after she catches him playing in the middle of the night she throws his computer out of the window.
This wouldn't affect Audrey too much - in fact, Frank's behaviour takes their parent's attention away from her - if it wasn't for the fact that Frank's LOC teammate, Linus, won't be coming to hang out at their house anymore. Linus is cute and, despite the fact that she runs away when she first meets him, he's patient and kind to her. 
Audrey has been struggling with her anxiety for months, but things start looking up when Linus is around. He challenges her to meet him at Starbucks, something her counsellor has been suggesting she try for a while, and she rises to the occasion and manages it. When they eventually start a relationship, she's over the moon.
But with Audrey so obsessed with getting better and being normal, will her and Linus last or will the pressure be too much?

'Finding Audrey' puts the 'young' in young adult. From the opening sentence with that 'OMG' exclamation through to Audrey's constant exaggerations (in May she says she's been suffering with her anxiety "forever", to which her therapist replies she's been seeing her since March...) I was rolling my eyes regularly throughout this novel. It's melodramatic.
This takes away from the impact on the anxiety. Audrey is such an over-the-top character throughout, so her spiralling anxious thoughts don't stand out from her sassy internal monologue and it makes it hard to take anything seriously. Combine that with her mother's obsession with Frank's gaming, Audrey's much more relevant worries pushed to the background for a slapstick family drama to play out... This was a tongue-in-cheek approach to social anxiety, and I don't appreciate such a careless way of dealing with a serious subject.
Take Audrey's relationship with Linus. It's verging on instalove. She runs away from him when he first approaches her, then proceeds to film him and rewatch the footage, and think about him constantly. Despite the fact that she flees from their date at the coffee shop, he follows her home and they converse via notes through her letter box; the next time they meet on page they have their first kiss and she hardly flinches. Kissing is one of the most anxiety-inducing things in the world, and she manages to make-out with the boy she likes - multiple times - without the merest flutter of panic in her stomach. This isn't realistic.
If you can find me one social anxiety sufferer who can kiss someone without the sweaty palms, I'm-going-to-be-sick feeling, I'll be surprised.
I'm grateful that Linus doesn't fix her, because Audrey is shown going to therapy throughout the novel and she puts in a lot of effort challenging herself to step out of her comfort zone. She also has a relapse when she decides to stop her medication cold turkey, and I'm glad Sophie Kinsella bothered to show that it is not a good idea to do that. These are the only reasons I gave the book three stars instead of one; too many novels neglect to feature characters that take medication and still have therapy, and often medication as seen as an easy, independent fix.
That being said, the only reason she takes her glasses off is because she loses them. There's no big moment where she looks in the mirror and decides to face the world, she just doesn't realise they're missing until her dad points it out.
I was extremely unimpressed by this story. I don't appreciate books that hint towards a big bad event in the past and then won't deal with it; I feel as though it's a way of copping out when the author doesn't know what the catalyst could have been. I also had no idea what the whole video game subplot was about, or why every other chapter was written as a script... A whole mess of things happen in this novel, and not many of them were necessary.

If this had been around when I was younger, I would have loved it. I've always been an extremely anxious person, and being able to read a character who was less confident and struggled with eye contact and talking would have been revolutionary.
Now, I can see that this isn't a great representation. I'm not quite sure why Sophie Kinsella felt the need to randomly spread out into the YA world, but I sincerely hope she sticks to the adult fiction in the future.
If you want to read a good book about anxiety, you want to read 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' by Sara Barnard. I can't recommend it enough. It's a much more worthwhile way to spend your time than reading 'Finding Audrey' would be.

No comments:

Post a comment