Huge thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.
I’ve loved reading Sophie Kinsella’s adult books for several years now, but I admit I was a little bit sceptical to see that she was now branching out and writing a young adult book. However I wanted to reserve judgement until after I’d read the book and I am so glad that I did.
This book was fantastic. It was poignant, funny, and tackled the subject matter incredibly well. You don’t find a vast number of books about mental illnesses on the shelves, and few of those manage to combine such brilliant wit and empathy, creating a wonderful cast of characters and allow the reader an insight into social anxiety, general anxiety and depression. I’ve never seen social anxiety in particular handled so well and so accurately in fiction.
Kinsella hits all of the points – what it’s like for the sufferer as well as those around them. The misconceptions, the ‘well why aren’t you better, can’t you just snap out of it’ comments. The way some people will try and make it about them. She brings all of these into the tale and weaves them into a truly brilliant story.
It’s a very odd mixture of writing styles. Most of the tale is told from Audrey’s point of view, but when she takes on a documentary style project as part of her therapy you get odd pieces of script to better convey what’s being recorded by Audrey’s camera. An odd style choice but one that works incredibly well for the story. It was wonderful watching the change in these film pieces from the first one to the last one.
Audrey herself is a fantastic character. Kinsella makes a choice to never tell the reader what events actually happened to put Audrey in this position, but we get enough vague facts to have a rough outlin. It’s a great choice because each reader will have a different interpretation of that outline and will allow more people to be able to empathise with Audrey’s situation. Audrey is bitingly funny – some of the dialogue and situations had me laughing out loud – and slowly comes to grips with her problems, her past and her future. Her determination to forge a more complete life for herself rather than sinking further into her anxiety and depression was tackled wonderfully.
Her family and Linus are a great supporting cast, equal parts realistic and caricatures, the combination works brilliantly and to sometimes hilarious effect. I also loved that as Audrey starts to get better she begins to take more notice of those around her and you begin to see the effect that her illness has had on her family. Everyone has handled it differently, but they are all so supportive of Audrey, and that is a wonderful thing to see.
Kinsella has portrayed social anxiety incredibly – it was refreshing to read a book that tackles this subject so well. You really feel for Audrey and that will offer people who suffer or have suffered from social anxiety and depression a mirror to show that, look, you are not alone and it does get better. Whilst it will also offer a valuable insight for those people who are lucky enough to never have experienced it.
My only issue was that Audrey read like she was several years older than 14. When I was reading it felt like she was sixteen or seventeen and it wasn’t until I went back and re-read the blurb that I discovered how young she was. This isn’t really a problem – there isn’t anything particularly inappropriate happening for her age, it just felt from her voice that she was older than that at points.
I adored this book. It’s well paced, brilliantly witty and full of larger than life characters. It’s a wonderful quick read that offers a much needed look at social anxiety and depression whilst remaining miraculously light hearted. It is bound to be one of the big summer reads and I cannot wait to hear people start to talk about it.