“My dark glasses are on, my hands are jammed in the pockets of my hoodie, and I’ve pulled the hood up for extra protection. I haven’t raised my gaze from the pavement, but that’s OK. Most people walk along in their own worlds anyway. As I reach the town centre the crowds become denser and the shop fronts are bright and noisy and with every step I have a stronger desire to run, but I don’t. I push on. It’s like climbing a mountain, I tell myself. Your body doesn’t want to do it, but you make it. And then, at last, I’ve made it to Starbucks. As I approach the familiar facade I feel kind of exhausted, but I’m giddy too. I’m here. I’m here! I push the door open and there’s Linus, sitting at a table near the entrance. He’s wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt and he looks hot, I notice before I can stop myself. Not that this is a date. I mean, obviously it’s not a date. But even so…”
Audrey loves her family, even if they are a bit off-the-wall. They were there for her when she developed an anxiety disorder as a result of an unpleasant incident. Because of her anxiety, Audrey now wears dark glasses whenever she feels the need to protect herself, but she’s also making slow, steady progress with Dr. Sarah. Later in the story, Audrey ends up meeting Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, and she is instantly energized. She 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. With her genuine gift for comic writing, Sophie Kinsella blends comedy, romance, and psychological insight in this contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and delight.
I decided to carry this book with me, last minute, on the train ride from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. In the span of 5 hours, I had completed the entire novel and was left feeling inspired and re-energized. Sophie Kinsella is known for her lighthearted, witty writing and this novel was no exception — it combined that humor with the serious issue of mental health in a way I never would’ve expected.
I began with quite the negative mindset, reluctant to read any further if the novel proved to be like the rest written about the same topic — girl-has-mental-health-issue, girl-meets-boy, girl-falls-in-love, girl-becomes-all-better — but I was met with a nice surprise as Audrey’s tale was one of real depth and emotion. It was a story about a 14-year-old girl facing the harsh realities of living with anxiety.
It’s absolutely essential, I think, in any art form, whether it be a movie or a book — for the artist to understand the concept they’re trying to portray. It was evident that Sophie Kinsella had done her research before she began to write about a sensitive issue that so many people are affected by today. The accuracy in her wording when it came to describing what anxiety feels like is something I truly applaud. See for yourself:
“Eye contact is a big deal. It’s the biggest deal. Just the thought makes me sick, right down to my core. I know in my rational head that that eyes are not frightening. They’re tiny little harmless blobs of jelly. They’re, like, a minuscule fraction of our whole body area. We all have them. So why should they bother me? But I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and if you ask me, most people underestimate eyes. For a start, they’re powerful… They’re like vortexes, too. They’re infinite. You look someone straight in the eye and your whole soul can be sucked out in a nanosecond. That’s what it feels like. Other people’s eyes are limitless and that’s what scares me.”
The family dynamic was another thing I loved — a real family: a mixture of sugar and salt, perfect in their imperfections. Audrey’s interactions with them were hilarious — but don’t take my word for it, because I laugh at literally everything. 😉 You have her anti-video-games mother, her clueless but cute father, her lovable little brother, and her video-game-obsessed brother. They understood Audrey’s situation and respected her feelings — never once choosing to blame her for anything. That kind of love will always have my utmost admiration.
And of course, we have Linus. I was a little wary when he came into the picture, fearing that the book would take a turn for the worst if it made him out to be “Audrey’s savior,” but he wasn’t, and that wasn’t the path it took at all. He wasn’t the cure to Audrey’s illness, just a person who understood her and helped her through it. In the end, Audrey helped Audrey, Audrey found Audrey — her boyfriend, family, and therapist simply aided her in that journey. Their interactions, both in-person and over text/handwritten notes, were so innocent and beautiful. This book is filled with them, and I’m sure the average teenager will be able to relate to their modern love story.
If you’re looking for a quick but fulfilling read to keep you warm and entertained, I highly recommend this gem of a book. It’s charming in its hilarity and truly rewarding in its realistic take on mental health and to be honest, life itself. Audrey isn’t 100% okay in the end, and that’s fine, if you think about it. Like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross puts it, “I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”
“The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying ‘I’m fine’ to people when you’re not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: “Why aren’t I fine?”
“It’s all my fault, my stupid, stupid fault… My thoughts are speeding up and my pace is speeding up too, and I’m pulling at my arms, pulling at the flesh of my forearms, trying to… I don’t know… I don’t understand it. I glance in the mirror and flinch at my own wild stare. I can feel a weird sparking all over my body, like I’m more alive than I should be, like my body is over-loaded with life force. Can you have too much life stuffed into one body? Because that’s what this feels like. And everything’s too fast. My heart, my thoughts, my feet, my clawing arms…”
“I guess Mum was right about the jagged graphs thing. We’re all on one. Even Frank. Even Mum. Even Felix. I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all that you can hope for. More or less upwards.”
“The more you engage with the outside world, the more you’ll be able to turn down the volume on those worries. You’ll see that they’re unfounded. You’ll see that the world is a very busy and varied place and most people have the attention span of a gnat. They’ve already forgotten what happened. They don’t think about it. There will have been five more sensations since your incident.”
“It won’t be forever. You’ll be in the dark for as long as it takes and then you’ll come out.”