I had never read anything by Sophie Kinsella before Finding Audrey. She is a wildly popular writer in the genre that is, sometimes pejoratively, referred to as chick lit, and Finding Audrey is her first foray into young adult literature. Although I did not pick up the book because she wrote it, as some of her fans might have, I quite like YA and books about mental illness, so I wanted to give this one a chance.
When I finished reading, my first impressions were that Kinsella latched onto buzzwords and hit them all in an effort to create a bestselling book. Young adult genre, which is very popular at the moment? Check. Mental illness in the form of social anxiety, or maybe just general anxiety or depression, it is never quite clear? Check. Mother obsessed with the amount of time her son is spending on video games and completely oblivious father? Check again. These would not be problems if they were handled in a sensitive way and not merely as rather convenient, but not fleshed out, plot devices.
As someone who greatly empathizes with the stigma of mental illness, I felt like it was dealt with too superficially. Audrey is a teenager who, after a never completely explained incident with some schoolmates, is going through a tough time. She has dropped out of school, is afraid to go outside, and wears sunglasses at all times to avoid eye contact. With the help of her therapist, she is making baby steps. This therapist tells her to make recordings of her life. It is never quite clear how this is supposed to help, but it lets Kinsella write a few scenes from a slightly different perspective, through transcribed dialogue and stage directions as if reading a play.
Audrey’s brother, Frank, is obsessed with video games, and her mother, with nothing else to do now that she has quit her job to care for Audrey, has decided to crusade (rather annoyingly) against this. There is a lot of cliché parent-child fighting which goes on and on. This video game subplot brings one of Frank’s friends, Linus, into the story. According to Frank, Audrey has to get used to Linus or else their mom will not let Linus visit anymore. If Audrey freaks out around Linus, Frank will be upset with her. He needs Linus so that they can practice to win the big video game tournament.
Yes, it is really that improbable.
The Male Savior comes in the form of Linus, who, again, Audrey has to get to know better because otherwise there would be no video game practice for Frank. There is the requisite instant attraction between Linus and Audrey. They exchange notes, which is cute and one of my favorite parts of the book. Where Audrey is afraid, Linus is the sort of completely socially adept, understanding teenage boy that one only finds in YA novels. Audrey quickly improves under his guidance. She can go outside! She can ask strangers random, unnecessary questions! She goes to Starbucks!
The ending stays on the same too easy resolution route set up by the rest of the book. I do not think it is giving anything away by saying (*spoilers*) everything ends up happily. Audrey stops taking her medications, overdoes it when she starts feeling anxious again, runs away, and is found in the park without her sunglasses. But guess what? Just like that, she doesn’t need the sunglasses anymore! Remember how her mother was so dead-set against video games? Well, she comes around to it and even starts encouraging it! High fives all around!
Finding Audrey was a quick read and superficially entertaining, like eating an entire bag of mini-candy bars. However, there was not enough substance for me to recommend it to others or to seek out other books by Kinsella.