Reviewed by Melissa, Meriden Library
Audrey is recovering from an intense bullying incident that has left with her paralyzing anxiety. At the start of the story she has transferred out of her current school and is waiting to start up at a new school once the school year begins. In the meantime, she never leaves the house, except to visit her therapist, and always wears sunglasses so she doesn’t have to make eye contact with anybody, not even her family. At the same time, her brother Frank and his friend Linus are training for an online video game tournament. During one of their gaming sessions Linus bumps into Audrey and she has a panic attack due to the unexpected interaction. Afterwards, he apologizes by way of a note he passes to her and from there they slowly become friends. They continue writing notes to each other and eventually she becomes comfortable enough with him that they can be in the same room, then sit next to each other and eventually they meet up in a coffee shop for their first date.
The reader never gets the full story of what happened to Audrey, which at first I found kind of off putting, but then I realized this helped me stay in the moment and focus on Audrey in her current state. When she does finally get to meet one of her bullies, the outcome is completely unexpected but very empowering.
Finding Audrey reads very much like a Louise Rennison novel, which I always love. It has all the humor, wit and awkward moments you could ask for with a few laugh out loud moments thrown in. In addition to being funny, it does a great job of humanizing people who live with extreme social anxiety. Audrey gets better over the course of the story but it’s a series of ups and downs. The way Kinsella writes about Audrey’s anxiety makes it relatable and gave me new perspective on how people cope.
I’m always extra critical of adult authors who transition to teen novels because I tend to think they don’t write teenagers very convincingly and the writing feels dumbed down, but Kinsella does a great job. Not only does Audrey feel like a real teenager, but Kinsella adds just enough details that all the characters feel like real people without distracting from Audrey’s story.
This is a great story with a lot going for it but probably not a Printz winner. Maybe it could be an honor book for the way it deals with social anxiety and bullying but I wouldn’t bet on it.