Some books just make me angry. In the past, that sentiment had mostly been reserved for Paolo Coelho’s books, which I think are preachy and have nothing to offer except obvious moral lessons. I never thought I would be saying it for Sophie Kinsella, bestselling author of the ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ series that has also been made into a fun movie starring Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood, a financial journalist who is forever running into debt because of her compulsive shopping habits. I have read most books in the series—they are fun and cheer you up.
I also enjoyed Kinsella’s stand-alone novel ‘The Undomestic Goddess’, a hilarious story of a high-powered corporate lawyer, Samantha Sweeting, who is mistaken for a job applicant for a housekeeper’s position at this big, beautiful house she stops to ask for directions after boarding a random train. She gets the job but she doesn’t even know how to make eggs or turn on the oven. There was a time when I talked about it every time someone asked me for book recs and even gifted it to friends.
Kinsella wrote light, fluffy books but she left you charmed. I wish she had stuck to writing witty books like these and not tried to tackle serious subjects, which is what she has done in ‘Finding Audrey’.
Here, Kinsella strives to tell the story of a teenager struggling with a mental health condition. We don’t know what happened to Audrey, except vague hints that suggest she was a victim of bullying. What we do know is that she doesn’t go to school anymore and wears dark sunglasses even when indoors. Strangers make her freak out, and she can neither touch nor talk to anyone besides her parents and her brothers, Frank and Felix. Then she meets Frank’s friend Linus who manages to take her to Starbucks and a few other places and talk to strangers in the guise of challenges.
It’s a lame story that undermines what it’s like living with a mental condition. You never know what’s wrong with Audrey and why she is the way she is. Worse, you don’t empathize with her as she seems like a selfish teenager and not someone who has had a lot to deal with at a young age.
The book’s first 100 pages is just Audrey’s mother going crazy. She is convinced Frank is addicted to video games and tries to get him to read a book or watch a Dickensian movie. The characterization is so poor that she doesn’t even come across as a concerned mother, more like a controlling lunatic. Audrey, who is supposed to be the titular character, just smirks and hides.
Sophie Kinsella, Author
It’s frustrating because the story goes around in circles and nothing really happens till Audrey makes up her mind to get better, in a moment of epiphany of sorts. As if it’s ever that easy. Kinsella probably had a vague story idea and felt she had to include the issue of mental health because it’s an important conversation. But she didn’t bother to do any research and learn just how debilitating mental illnesses can be. The result is an unconvincing, sloppy, and insensitive story.
Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 279, Paperback