I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve read every single stinking Shopaholic book by Sophie Kinsella. I know that Becky’s ridiculous adventures aren’t great literature. But I find them somewhat comforting. I know Becky will make a horrible decision about something, wear fabulous clothes, do ridiculous things with her friends, make questionable parenting choices, and be rescued by her sensible husband who helps her to realize that her horrible decision was actually a great idea in the end.
When I heard that Kinsella had recently written a YA book about depression and the aftermath of bullying, I was immediately skeptical. But I knew I would read it sooner or later. And I’m quite glad I did.
Audrey is a high school student in the UK who is currently not attending school, for reasons we aren’t 100% clear on. There was a bullying incident that led to several other girls being expelled and Audrey being admitted to a psychiatric hospital to recover. Audrey now stays home, wears dark glasses to avoid eye contact, and doesn’t interact with anyone that isn’t her family or her therapist…until Audrey meets her brother’s friend Linus.
Audrey’s older brother, Frank, is a bit obsessed with computer games, to their mother’s constant consternation. His only goal in life is to compete in a video game tournament, win $6 million in prize money, and become a professional gamer. So he brings his friend Linus over to the house to start practicing.
Linus knows all about what happened to Audrey, and handles himself and the situation with great care. For a while, Audrey’s anxiety is so great, that she can’t even sit in the same room with him, so they pass notes to each other from different parts of the house. Its really quite cute.
Eventually, Linus gets Audrey out of the house, talking to people, and breaking down some of her barriers. But they disagree 100% on whether or not Audrey should ever have any communication with the girls that hurt her, and if she should ever accept their apology.
Linus and Audrey are adorable. Kinsella nails the transition from a crush to a first relationship so well. And I loved Frank, too. He was supportive when he needed to be, and treated Audrey like a regular person most of the time. I loved the way Frank stood up for her when confronted with one of her attackers, and was so happy when Frank discovered that maybe there was more to life than just video games.
Some parts — THE MOTHER — of the story were a bit over the top, however. Audrey’s mom and her obsession with advice given in The Daily Mail were a bit too much to take at times. I understand a mother’s need to care for and protect her children at all costs, but Audrey’s mom was a bit too much like Becky Bloomwood for me, and it just didn’t fit with the story.
But I mostly loved it. I thought it was a strong portrayal of depression and anxiety, and I really cared about what was going on with Audrey and her life.
It was certainly weird that Kinsella never explained what exactly had happened to Audrey. I kind of wanted to know, but I also didn’t want to know. It must have been something really terrible, and as a parent of a brand-new middle schooler, it probably would have given me nightmares.