Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (review)

Finding Audrey - new book by Sophie Kinsella reviewFinding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Random House Australia RRP $29.99AUD

Finding Audrey is the new book from bestselling author Sophie Kinsella (of the Shopaholic series fame).  This time, the audience is younger and the message more substantial as she tackles anxiety disorders in adolescents.

Audrey is 14 years old, and in recovery from a major episode of social anxiety disorder that has forced her into therapy and out of school.  Estranged from friends and plagued by fears about interacting with the outside world, Audrey hides behind sunglasses and rarely leaves the house.

The book sensitively handles the experience of anxiety from Audrey’s perspective, but also flags the impact of her disorder on her well-meaning (if chaotic) family.  Anxiety and depression can leave people forever looking inward, without realising that their illness is also changing the lives of their friends and loved ones.  Audrey’s gradual awakening from this dark, insular place includes a growing appreciation of her family’s efforts to help her – a pretty common process for teens, I think, with or without the added bonus of anxiety.

But while this is a discussion of anxiety, bullying and how generally bloody hard it is to grow up – it wouldn’t be a Sophie Kinsella novel without a little romance…

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Audrey’s brother Frank is a keen gamer, and has entered a tournament with his new best mate Linus.  Much to Audrey’s dismay, this means a NEW person will be IN HER HOUSE on a regular basis and she does her best to lay low.

Luckily Linus is curious enough to try to understand where Audrey is coming from. A friendship develops via tentative hand-written notes, then conversations under cover of night and eventually actual coffees in actual public cafes.  It seems Linus might be just the right person to coax Audrey back out into the light. But the path of true love, of course, never runs smoothly.

For a teen romance, this is actually quite an important book.  Beyond Blue reports that 1 in 6 young Australians will experience an anxiety disorder; it’s never been more important for us to better understand anxiety.    This book is light enough not to be overwhelming (FAR less intense than Fault In Our Stars, for example)  but it doesn’t sugar coat the reality of living with an anxiety disorder.  In easy, conversational language, Audrey describes the seemingly irrational fears, self doubt and hopelessness that can become a prison to sufferers of anxiety.

Finding Audrey would suit readers 13 years and up (depending on maturity, of course). There’s a bit of mild language and butterflies-in-the-belly kissing, but nothing too racy or traumatic.  It’s also a great read for adult fans of contemporary romance fiction – as well as for adults who want to learn more about how it feels to experience anxiety as a teenager.

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