I went into this book knowing nothing about it. That was unusual. I had read Sophie Kinsella earlier and liked some of her books. However, I wasn’t aware this was her first young adult novel and quite different from her usual ones.
This is the story of 14-year-old Audrey who suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) after a horrifying incident of bullying at school. Any kind of social interaction causes a panic attack.
At home, she refuses to part with her dark glasses even while talking to her parents. They understand Audrey well and are supportive of her. They have let her stay home for the past few months. She has an older brother Frank, who is addicted to video games and a younger one, four-year-old Felix.
Audrey bumps into Frank’s friend and game-buddy Linus. They strike up a hesitant friendship that becomes Audrey’s way out into the world.
What I loved
The beginning of the book was hilarious and it had me hooked right away. The standoff between Frank and his mom Anne, over his gaming addiction was so familiar, so real I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and then I turned them back and read again for more laughs.
In Finding Audrey, Kinsella crafts some of the most identifiable characters and situations. They’re stereotypical for sure but because that in no way takes away from their adorability, I’m not complaining.
It was like being in a familiar space. I am Anne dealing in my own life with a teen crazy as Frank (though, hopefully not as devious) and another one who is awkward and self-conscious from being sequestered at home for two years. As for Felix, I wanted to squish him in one tight hug. I wish I had one of him.
I thoroughly enjoyed Anne’s and Frank’s face-offs even though most often, Frank got away with the upper hand. The first half of the book is as much about the rest of the family as it is about Audrey and that made sure the pace didn’t flag for a moment.
On the flip side, it had too little about Audrey. Though there is a lot of talk of her disorder, we don’t really get to see much of it (apart from one interaction with Linus) because her social exposure is almost non-existent.
For most of the first half, Audrey is a quiet presence watching the madness of her crazy family through a camera lens.
A single meeting with Linus gives us some idea of what it would be like for her.
I liked Linus, though his character remained sketchy.
The first person narrative works well for Audrey because we get to see what she is feeling and going through. However, in the climax, it proves to be a limiting point. It also doesn’t let us see Linus’ point of view.
I must make mention of one particular sequence where Linus tells Audrey, ‘So just tell yourself to snap out of it, You know, mind over matter.’
That really touched a chord. I know of scores of people who think depression and anxiety are as easily overcome as that. And I’m glad Kinsella brought it up.
The second half of the book couldn’t hold up well
Linus invites Audrey to Starbucks and she just goes. How on earth does a teen who hasn’t been out of the house for months, who cannot even look her parents in the eye, get to Starbucks?
Audrey and Linus’ first kiss was also not credible. In the space of a few paragraphs she goes from tentative shoe contact to the kiss.
Also, the author never tells us what happened to give Audrey SAD. Perhaps, as Audrey says, it wasn’t important. To me, it felt like lazy writing.
Like I mentioned earlier the first person narrative can be limiting and I wondered what drew Linus to Audrey. Curiosity maybe, or empathy? I would have liked to know.
Lastly, I missed a good climax. There really wasn’t much of one.
Last thought: It’s a great book for young adults or even if you’re dealing with teens at home. That said, it remains a three-star read, all of them for the first half.