Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Published: June 2015
Genre: young adult, contemporary
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.
Audrey has a host of anxiety issues, and her mother’s helicopter nagging the entire family isn’t helping. Audrey wears sunglasses all day and watches QVC in a dark room, avoiding all aspects of The Incident that triggered her mental state. When Dr. Sarah gives her an assignment to film her life like a fly on the wall, Audrey watches the life around her through a lens and slowly ventures out to the Starbucks around the corner. With her brother Frank taking a hit with Mum’s fanatics, Audrey is able to branch out and rediscover the world on her own.
“[Bloody] is in the Harry Potter films, OK? Harry Potter. How can it be swearing?”
“What?” Mum sounds wrong-footed.
“Harry Potter. I rest my case.”
The publisher synopsis annoyingly makes it sound like Linus swoops in and saves the day and erases Audrey’s multitude of serious, severe anxiety issues. That’s not the case. He certainly helps her deal with it, come to terms with it, and tackle it. He doesn’t treat her like a science experiment or an animal in the zoo — her constant use of sunglasses and tendency to dash out of a room mid-sentence only to cower in a closet corner can make normal conversation difficult — and Audrey recognizes this and finds a way to speak to him about her issues.
“So you’re allergic to eye contact.”
“I’m allergic to everything contact.”
“No you’re not,” he says at once. “You’re not allergic to brain contact. I mean you write notes. You talk. You still want to talk to people, you just can’t. So your body needs to catch up with your brain.”
I’m silent for a while. No-one’s put it like that before.
That being said, Linus and her family help her take steps back into the world as well as accidentally pushing her back to invisibility. She grows so much through this book on her own terms, fighting against her “lizard brain” that’s constantly on high alert, doing things that feel daring to her and normal to others. She watches Mum grow paranoid about computer games and their effects on her older brother Frank. She cuddles younger brother Felix and works on eye contact through his innocent gaze. She observes her dad grow more and more tired as the months wear on. All of this is recorded on her camera that she shares with Dr. Sarah, so she can get a better idea of Audrey’s environment, home life, and progress.
We sip our drinks and smile at each other. Thoughts are racing through my head, crazy thoughts like I’ve made it! I’m in Starbucks! Go me! But there are other, weird, random thoughts popping up, like Everyone’s looking at me and I hate myself. And then suddenly I wish I was home right now, which is just weird. I do not wish I was at home. I’m out with Linus! In Starbucks!
Though we never find out exactly what triggered Audrey’s severe anxiety, we do get a good idea of what happened. (I also have a theory Mum was a huge contributing factor because WOW I wanted to box her ears and shut her up on a lot of issues. This is when I’d pull out my nonexistent pom-poms and cheer on Frank’s responses to everything she said and did.) And this book is so damn funny. Her situation isn’t funny, but the events happening around her, outside of her inner world, are so hilarious I couldn’t stop laughing. It made her moments with Dr. Sarah even more meaningful. I’m so relieved to finally see a mental illness story with a therapist that’s not a stereotype or unhelpful, with a protagonist that wants to make progress.
I’ve never read Kinsella’s adult books, but if they’re anything like her YA debut, I’m definitely going to give her a read!