Sophie Kinsella Takes On YA And Anxiety, Semple-Style
Semple Meets Kinsella
Meet Bernadette Fox’s teen doppelgänger, Audrey. Audrey is the lead teen role in Sophie Kinsella’s YA book, Finding Audrey. The cover is uniquely reminiscent of Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple. Both book jackets portray brunette women with bangs and dark glasses. The background colors are nearly the same shade of The Uncorked Librarian’s favorite blueish-turquoise, and the titles imply missing subjects. In addition, Where’d You Go and Finding Audrey are both about slightly off-kilter females desperately trying to find themselves. In our always-striving-to-be-better environment with curated social media bubbles and the generally tapped out world today, publishing YA books about anxiety is essential to teen health.
Much Needed YA Books About Anxiety
With 13 Reasons taking off on Netflix and a trend in more contemporary and angsty YA, Kinsella adds another insightful viewpoint into teen mental illness. Although Finding Audrey debuted in 2015, today we are seeing and spotlighting these much needed YA books about anxiety, depression, suicide, and other mental illnesses. Some powerful and engaging titles, both new and old, include: Thirteen Reasons Why, All The Bright Places, Turtles All The Way Down, Everybody Sees the Ants, Paper Towns, Winter Girls, and Challenger Deep.
The truth: I had my concerns about our gloriously junk-foody, bestselling chick lit author writing a novel about illness; I doubted that Kinsella could compete with the above authors and titles. Creating a more serious young adult novel seemed out of reach. Known for the adult Shopaholic Series, I had faith that Kinsella would write well and entertain. But anxiety? Her first teen book? Slow down, girlfriend. Wally Lamb can navigate and slay different perspectives but a typical (great) fluff writer?
Kinsella hit her mark so, cough couch, my apologies for judging. The skill of writing outside the box is one I respect and what makes authors worthy of mild greatness.
A Book Review of Finding Audrey
As the novel begins, we learn that Audrey had a traumatizing life event involving school and a seemingly selfish group of girls. The event is never fully disclosed, which might be a small spoiler for some but also makes you slow down to enjoy the book. Now stricken with a horrible anxiety disorder, Audrey wears dark glasses and is heavily medicated. She sees a therapist and refuses to leave the house. With a brother addicted to online gaming, her parents question if they are properly raising their children. Audrey’s parents are by no means perfect either. We see them scattered and a little compulsive.
Audrey’s life begins to turn around as she meets Linus, her brother’s best friend. Linus is endearing and entices Audrey to leave the safety of home, even if her excursion is just to Starbucks. Although this feat may seem like an exaggeration to those who are unaware of the debilitating depths of anxiety, Audrey’s character brings to life the severity of the illness. I found myself only wishing for good experiences for Audrey, which is equally unrealistic. Throughout the novel, Audrey works toward being a happy, healthy teenage girl.
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Who Will Benefit From Finding Audrey
Written for 8th grade and higher, I picked up this title because of my lack of faith in Kinsella and out of sheer curiosity. I promise that Finding Audrey is not a cheesy romance and all things girl. Don’t get me wrong, I openly love and need chick-lit on a Saturday night after learning that Anthony Bourdain has taken his life. I appreciate that such a popular author can break free from her stereotypical writing while still maintaining some of her humor and niche. However, Finding Audrey is more intense realistic and contemporary fiction. This is not an intriguing read for fantasy lovers or those looking for a fast-moving plot.
Teen girls who struggle with bullies, friends, and social anxiety will find this book endearing and relatable. Teens struggling with family dynamics might also chuckle and sigh. Back in graduate school, I remember a class discussion about the role of families in YA literature. At the time, I could not recall too many books where the parents play a significant part. Audrey’s family is at least 50% of this story. Her parents are funny, supportive, smart, empathetic, and caring. Finding Audrey shows that while many families want to be perfect, it is their imperfections that make them all human and lovable. Books about dysfunctional families add awareness about identity and overcoming a variety of obstacles. I especially love the household commentary that Kinsella brings to the table along with anxiety.
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Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Delacorte Press 2015)
Sophie Kinsella is a world famous, bestselling author. You can learn more about her here.