Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Review of Finding Audrey

I've also seen blue covers of this book,
but I like the pink!
Finding Audrey is a YA novel by Sophie Kinsella, who has also wrote several novels for adults. Audrey Turner has some serious mental health problems after going through some bullying in school and online. She doesn't leave her house, except for her therapy sessions. Her brother, Frank, is a gamer, who particularly likes one called Land of Conquerors. Their Mum, after feeling like he spends too much time gaming, starts taking steps to prevent him going on the computer so much. Frank's friend, Linus, starts coming round to practice Land of Conquerors together, and there he meets Audrey and starts encouraging her to come out of her shell somewhat.

Kinsella's books for adults have been a long favourite of mine, for a light, fluffy read, so I picked up her YA novel on a whim, to see how she deals with a more serious subject. The best thing I can say is that she definitely did her research, even while she treats it with her trademark light touch and humour. Audrey's mental illnesses are well-defined and developed. The book calls them out by name - Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Episodes. It also shows the benefits of therapy and medication, and how bad things could get if she wasn't getting help. Some events during the book make her relapse. "No-one said getting better would be a straightforward journey," Dr. Sarah, her therapist, tells her. The book takes care to point out that, even by the end, Audrey's not cured, and that mental health is a long-term, ongoing issue. Also, she doesn't get magically better because she gets a boyfriend at the end of the book.

The characters veer almost into caricature territory, which I personally think worked here. They're so ridiculous that it is hard to take them seriously. I liked Audrey, and Frank. However, I felt like Audrey fell into a common trap when writing a character with mental health issues - she is defined almost solely by her mental illness. By the end of the book, I didn't know if she had a dream or aspiration and I don't know about any hobbies she might have done before the incident. Didn't like their parents. Hated Linus, the love interest. He is completely clueless about mental health and shows no desire to learn, even when he and Audrey start hanging out more. He is basically a personification of the "it's all in your head!" phrase that people struggling with their mental health hear all too often. At one point, he says "Just tell yourself to snap out of it. You know, mind over matter." Audrey takes one step forward, leaving the house one time, and he says "You're cured!" "Do you still need therapy? I mean, you look fine." This would all be fine if he was just an ignorant friend of Frank's, but he's the love interest. At the end of the book, Audrey has to apologise to Linus, but never does he say "I'm sorry for my misconceptions about mental health, I've been researching and I now know it's not that easy." He's almost a guide on what not to do if you're trying to help someone with mental health issues. Despite feeling like the book would be better without him, and the relationship taking up much of the book, I still did like it overall. Honestly, why does every book have to have romance in it?

I have to credit this book with something else - one of the best fictional gamers I've ever read. Frank is realistic to most gamers I know. He loves playing them, even staying up late into the night, but it's not his whole life. He stays fit and does well in school, even being on the cross-country team. His game, which I pictured as a League of Legends sort of thing in my head, allows him to socialise with others. One of my favourite things about gaming is the ability to socialise with people all over the world. On that note, did anyone else flinch when Frank's Mum threw his computer out the window?.

I would have to recommend this book on an individual basis. Some people may be okay with a humorous book based around mental health, and some may not. I personally never felt like this book like this book treated mental health as a joke or made fun with people with anxiety, but that was only my interpretation.

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