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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Finding Audrey: A Novel, written by Sophie Kinsella. Doubleday, Random House. 2015. $22.00 ages 12 and up

"Dr. Sarah says positive visualization is an incredibly effective weapon in our armory and I should create in my mind scenarios of success that are realistic and encouraging. The trouble is, I don't know how realistic my ideal scenario is. OK, yes I do: not at all. In the ideal scenario, I don't have lizard brain. Everything is easy. I can communicate like normal people. My hair is longer and my clothes are cooler ... "

In a gentle and thoughtful exploration of mental illness, of the effects that bullying has on a family, and of love that transcends to help heal, we meet Audrey and her family. Audrey is only 14 and beginning, through careful and healing counselling, to deal with the devastating anxiety that has resulted from her encounters with bullies at school. Dr. Sarah's suggestion that she video her family (who are frenetic, funny and weird) gives us a chance to see both the humor and pathos in their relationships. She also wants Audrey to make an attempt to get out and meet people.

There are many humorous moments, mixed in with the angst and uncertainty of Audrey's healing. Linus provides complications, but he also brings some clarity. The rest of her family have their own difficulties, perhaps due to Audrey's illness.

 "Mum, please, can we talk about this?"
"I've tried talking!" Mum lashes back. "I've tried
cajoling, arguing, pleading, reasoning, bribing ... I've tried
everything! EVERYTHING, Frank!"
"But I need my computer!"
"You do not need your computer!" Mum yells, so furiously
that I flinch.
"Mummy is going to throw the computer!" says Felix,
running onto the grass and looking up in disbelieving
joy. Felix is our little brother. He's four. He greets most
life events with disbelieving joy. A lorry in the street!
Ketchup! An extra-long chip! Mum throwing a computer
out of the window is just another on the list of daily
"Yes, and the computer will break," says Frank
fiercely. "And you won't be able to play Star Wars ever
again, ever."

Tell me you don't want to know more about Audrey and her family! I bet you cannot. They are each unique and loving, while also dealing with stress in very different ways. They provide the support that Audrey needs while also being themselves as we discover in reading Audrey's transcripts for the movie she is making.

Audrey's anxiety and depression are palpable. Scenes from her family's daily doings provide some much needed humor. Audrey wears dark glasses, loves being in the family den when there is no light shining, and avoids meeting new people. Linus helps to change that with his tender caring for her. He helps to draw her from the darkness that surrounds her, and leaves readers wishing for a friend just like him.

In her first novel for teens, Sophie Kinsella shows her writing 'chops' for a younger audience who will appreciate all that her adult readers have come to admire in previous works. Giving Audrey a first person voice is magical, and making her proactive in her own healing is sure to give hope to others who read her story. Recovery is a long road, and not to be taken lightly. Ms. Kinsella makes that evident to her readers. Poignant, funny, and ultimately hopeful, this is a book that is sure to find a wide audience and many new fans. Deservedly so.       

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