Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.
Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.
Rating: 3.25 stars
My sweet mother saw this book on one of my Down the TBR Hole posts and knew that I’d been wanting to read it for quite some time, so she secretly bought it for me. It was an awesome gift and I was now even more excited to read this book. You could say that my expectations were pretty high. I don’t really feel like I was let down, but this wasn’t quite what I expected.
Finding Audrey is about a girl who has crippling social and general anxiety that keeps her trapped in her home. She also wears sunglasses at all times, even with her family, because eye contact is very intimidating for her. Readers are lead to believe that this isn’t a problem that Audrey has always had. Apparently, though readers are never given the full story, Audrey had some big problems with serious bullying and tormenting with a group of girls in school. Things must’ve gotten very out of hand because the girls were expelled, Audrey was taken out of school, and she was checked into a hospital due to mental illness.
Now, to be fully transparent, I wanted to read this book because I struggle a lot with social and general anxiety as well, though I’m still fairly functional with them (I know what triggers it & tried to avoid it but other than that I can go on about a regular day). I felt like I would be able to relate to Audrey because even though my mental health situation wasn’t as dire as hers, it’s always nice to find a book that you feel like represents you. And there were times when I felt really in tune with Audrey.
“Episodes. Like depression is a sitcom with a fun punch line each time. Or a TV box set loaded with cliffhangers. The only cliffhanger in my life is “Will I ever get rid of this shit?” and believe me, it gets pretty monotonous.”
So, at times, this was really quite a personal read for me. But I think what I liked most about the book was what was going on around Audrey. The novel doesn’t just focus on her and her illness. At one point, Audrey’s doctor mentions to her that sometimes having a mental illness can make you a bit self-obsessed. I’m not a doctor so I can’t tell you whether that’s actually fact or not, but Audrey seemed to find some truth in it. However, there are times throughout that the story is actually told through a documentary that Audrey is making about her life/family, and almost always the scenes are about the people around her. I think that (for me), what was great about it was that it showed the effects of Audrey’s illness on the other people around her, too. The everyday life of the family was in some way effected, like the fact that Audrey’s mom no longer works in order to stay home with Audrey. While I love reading mental health rep, I think stories that can help you see beyond the illness and into the consequences of the everyday life, for the person suffering and the people who love them, is really important.
Now, with all of that being said, there is the issue of Linus. I didn’t hate Linus, but I think we can all agree that he was really a very boring character. He had absolutely no development, especially when you compare him to the characters who were highly developed like Audrey, her mother, and her brother Frank. Linus existed solely so that the “boy saves girl” trope could also exist. I was really glad to read Audrey coming out of her shell and working on going outside, speaking to people, and making progress, and I’m happy that she had someone that helped push her. Everyone needs someone. But, there were a lot of times when Linus was rude about her illness. Most of the time, he’d act very understanding, but then if Audrey wasn’t up for his challenge, he’d tell her to “snap out of it”. Wouldn’t it just be so lovely if mental illness was a thing you could just snap out of? Beyond that, it was pretty unrealistic for Audrey’s illness to seemingly dissipate so quickly just because some teenage boy showed up that gave her butterflies. I’d really love for the idea that romantic relationships can cure a mental illness to be widely debunked.
Because Audrey’s progress goes so quickly and suddenly, she had to learn a really hard lesson, and the story wrapping up this way kind of redeemed it for me once again after dealing with Linus for a while.
“I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less forwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.”
Overall, it’s a fairly good story about the ups & downs of mental illness and the effects that not only the person experiences, but also the people around them. While the representation did not always feel as accurate as it could be, it was a pleasant enough story. Progress is not linear and Audrey has a hard time coming to terms with that. But… I think, maybe, we all do. If you feel you can relate to that, then this is a probably a worthwhile read for you.