Book Review: Finding Audrey

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finding audrey by sophie kinsella

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!

Book Review: I’ve Got Your Number

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As with all of Sophie Kinsella’s novels, I’ve Got Your Number contains a protagonist that would, quite possibly, not actually survive outside of the literary world – if only from the fact that they’d walk into a mineshaft simply from sheer absentmindedness. However, regardless of common sense or any clue as to how normal relationships function, Poppy Wyatt and I’ve Got Your Number still managed to be surprisingly charming.

In I’ve Got Your Number we’re introduced to a frantic Poppy – she’s getting married in a couple of weeks, yet she’s managed to lose the priceless, family-heirloom of an engagement ring – right before she meets up with her fiance, Magnus, and his insufferable parents. What makes matters worse is that her phone is quickly snatched by a ride-by-thief – how is anyone going to get into contact with her if they find her ring?

Luckily, Poppy discovers a brand new phone lying on top of the bin: a phone that, while belonging to businessman Sam’s former PA, is now under the possession of Poppy, at least until she gets her phone back. Until then? She has to act as PA-in-lieu for businessman Sam, and if that means a bit of flirtation along the way – well, there’s nothing wrong with that?

I’d like to add one thing – I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with chick lit, and Sophie Kinsella is a genius at procuring them. I bring this up because I recently wrote a mini-thesis on the misrepresentation of females into the chick lit genre, and I came across an article that included quotes from some ninnies who had a go at Kinsella. Basically, they said something along the lines of ‘for someone who has a degree from Oxford, she certainly writes a lot of trash’. Yes, chick lit is often silly and completely oblivious to the realities of life and love, but that doesn’t make it a BAD thing. And hell, Kinsella has literally made millions from her novels, so not only is she one of the highest-paying authors in the world (pretty good for ‘writing silly chick lit’), but I can also assume that she’s made a lot more money than the average graduate with an English degree, Oxford or not.

I picked up I’ve Got Your Number at the Denpasar airport when I realised that I had a 6 hour flight (and a 12 hour layover) with only 30 pages remaining of my last book. Scary times, I assure you. Luckily for me, I’ve Got Your Number lived up its reputation of a classic chick lit: funny, lighthearted and about as easy to read as a Dr Seuss book.

Of course, like most of Kinsella’s novels, common sense and reality are swept aside to make room for hilarious plot lines and ridiculous protagonists. Poppy, despite being a physiotherapist and therefore (I assume) quite bright, comes across as a fool, in more ways than one. Not only does she get engagement to a man after only a few short months, but she allows her friends to hit on him, his parents to belittle her and for him, above everyone else, to talk his way into her good books again and again. She somehow thinks that taking a phone out of the bin and refusing to give it back to its owner is somehow more appropriate, not to mention easier, than simply going down to the shops and getting a new phone straight away. And above all else, she’s a fully grown woman who creates a relationship with a man over text and email – something that I would assume most people stop doing (and stop aspiring to) over the age of 15.

Nevertheless, I’ve Got Your Number was still charming, and it is a skill that Kinsella has. Her storylines are ridiculous and her characters frequently unlikeable, yet almost every time, you want them to get their man, get their revenge and be their quirky, outrageous selves throughout. And really, from a novel that revolves around a missing engagement ring, could we ask for anything more?

Have you read I’ve Got Your Number or any of Sophie Kinsella’s books? Are you a fan? Let me know!

i've got your number by sophie kinsella

I’ve Got Your Number – (image taken from http://www.flixcart.com)

Book Review: Wedding Night

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With the title Wedding Night, and written by chick lit favourite, Sophie Kinsella, this book should have delivered everything that I expected from it.  Fluff.  Fun.  A cute boy, a fun chick and a hilarious, if unrealistic, storyline.  Not too much to ask, surely?

Wedding Night follows the perspectives and lives of sisters Fliss and Lottie; one who is level-headed, smart and strong, the other who is flighty, loving and romantic.  When Lottie has her heart broken by an ‘unproposal’ from her boyfriend Richard, she ends up meeting up with her ex-lover from many, many years ago and they decide to get married.  Hey, if it worked when they were 18, why shouldn’t it be a success 15 years later?

To make things even more special, Lottie and Ben decide to consummate their marriage where they met – in Greece.  Yet while Lottie has visions of romance, lust and the perfect honeymoon (expensive lingerie and all), her sister Fliss is determined to stop them from having sex – so they can get the marriage annulled and everyone can forget about how stupid the whole saga was.

Which is basically how I felt about this book.

Sophie Kinsella usually has the ability to write books that are witty and silly, but still a heck of a lot of fun to read.  And bar the Shopaholic series (where, to me, the narrator is simply a stupid girl who is selfish with money), her characters are great gals.  They may be a bit silly, yes, but they’ve essentially got lovely personalities and you want them to prevail and get out of whatever sticky mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

This was not the case with Wedding Night.  Seriously, who thinks it’s a good idea to get back with an ex from 15 years ago and marry them immediately?  Without getting to know them, or have sex with them…or ANYTHING with them.  Particularly since Lottie was not only getting over her ex-boyfriend, but also she had numerous people from the sidelines shouting out that it was a completely bonkers idea.

Secondly, the idea that Lottie runs off with another man five minutes after she breaks it off with her ex, only to have her ex, Richard, chase after her halfway around the world because he wants her back just doesn’t sit right with me.  While Kinsella quickly fixes that issue by having Richard proclaim it’s his own fault for not proposing to her in the first place, it just left a yucky taste in my mouth.  I tried putting myself in Richard’s position and honestly, if I thought my ‘great love’ could get over me so easily, I’d cry and try to move on, not justify their behaviour and fly to Greece.

Thirdly, it kind of made a mockery of the whole idea of marriage.  Not only the idea that it’s so easily to ‘un-do’ it, but also that Lottie was sooooo angry with Richard because he hadn’t proposed to her.  Except that they’d never discussed marriage before.  Now I’m all for spontaneity and romance, but it does seem a bit harsh that she broke up with him because he didn’t propose to her when she thought he was going to.

Lastly, even though it was a book, I just felt that there was no chemistry in any of the characters.  That sounds weird, since it’s meant to be in my mind, but the way that Kinsella wrote them led me to just keep wondering why they were all putting up with each other in the first place.

Granted, this book was relatively easy to read, I found it enjoyable enough and Kinsella did a great job of keeping the plot moving forward, but honestly overall it disappointed me, which sucks because usually Kinsella delivers.

Have your read Wedding Night or anything by Sophie Kinsella?  Let me know!

wedding night by sophie kinsella

Wedding Night – (image taken from http://www.dymocks.com.au)