Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, Finding Audrey, is everything you wouldn’t expect from the queen of chick lit. Not only is it an entirely different genre, but it also deals with far heavier issues than the typical ‘but does he really like me?’ dilemmas that Kinsella usually writes about. The result? Well, let’s just say that one does not become one of the highest-selling authors of the 21st century without being a great writer…regardless of the subject material or genre.
Finding Audrey tells the story of Audrey, a 14-year old with a lovably dysfunctional family. Audrey would know exactly what her family gets up to after all – she has trouble leaving the house and interacting with others, and suffers from anxiety and depression after a series of bullying incidents at school left her hospitalised. Yet while Audrey has difficulty talking to strangers or looking people in the eye, the arrival of her brother’s friend Linus gets Audrey excited about the possibilities in life again.
Despite being incredibly easy to read, I would imagine that the young adult category would be bloody tricky to write for, so Sophie Kinsella immediately deserves a clap for pulling off Finding Audrey in a genre she has never attempted before. It can be far too easy to come across as insincere, bogus, or, worst of all, out of touch when writing for, and about, teenagers, yet Kinsella successfully creates dialogue and interaction between her characters that seems fairly on point. More impressively again, she does so with her usual flair for comedic timing and bravado.
Furthermore, considering that Kinsella usually writes slapstick chick lit where the protagonist inevitably digs themselves a hole so deep largely thanks to something stupid and inconsequential, it was quite an achievement that she chose a weighty topic that was neither too over-the-top (particularly considering the target market) nor cloying. And though Kinsella definitely skirts over the harsher realities of the debilitating illnesses of depression and anxiety, she successfully captures how someone like Audrey must be feeling. Though a series of terrible incidents are frequently referred to, we’re never told explicitly what actually occurred. I must admit the curious part of me (ALL of me) wanted to know what had happened, in truth it was a deliberate ploy to emphasis, just like Audrey does, that anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily stem from a single incident – and that it isn’t what someone should be focusing on if they want to get better.
The charm in Finding Audrey largely lies with Audrey herself – a neurotic teenager yes, but a very human, lovable one. While Audrey fits many of the characteristics of Kinsella’s usually characters – pretty, interested in a boy, a bit neurotic about said boy etc – I think that’s quite wonderful. Yes, Audrey is unwell and has a lot of issues she has to deal with, but she’s still human, and she’s still like you and I – having a mental illness doesn’t automatically make you crazy after all.
Finding Audrey is definitely something new and different for Sophie Kinsella, but I really loved it. It still has the attitude, humour and easy-to-read qualities of her other novels, while also portraying a heavier issue and a stronger protagonist. There’s a reason why Kinsella is such a successful, well-liked author and Finding Audrey just reinforces this. Plus, how much does the cover suit the storyline?
Have you read Finding Audrey? Are you a fan of Sophie Kinsella? Do you think YA just for teenagers? Let me know!