Published in 2015, Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey
tells the story of fourteen-year-old Audrey Horner who is coming to grips with a traumatic experience in her life which has resulted in a slew of mental health-related consequences, such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
A teenage girl in high school, bullying is no foreign concept to Audrey. However, when things start to escalate and the same group of girls continuously bullies her in school, it begins to cause her considerable stress and impact upon her quality of life. When her parents find out about the bullying, they withdraw Audrey from school. Audrey is mandated to attend weekly therapy sessions with her psychologist, Dr. Sarah.
While Audrey attempts to find her inner strength through therapy sessions, her family is in turmoil. Audrey’s mother is convinced that her brother Frank has a serious video game addiction. While Audrey’s mom wishes Frank would drop the video games and develop other interests, Frank insists he is training to compete in an upcoming video game tournament. Audrey’s mom responds to this in the best way she can think of, which is to take Frank’s computer and throw it out the window. This proves to be very amusing for the neighbors who gather to watch the spectacle.
Audrey’s life is pretty contained within her household; she rarely sees anyone outside of her family or her therapist. She has developed a defense mechanism that forces her to push people away, and her fight or flight mentality makes it difficult to form new relationships. Therefore, when she discovers her own growing attraction to her brother’s friend Linus after he accidentally enters her room, she is unsure how to proceed. She soon learns that the feeling is mutual, and Linus becomes a great source of support. He seems to truly care and want to help Audrey; he displays endless patience as she works to develop trust in him.
Dr. Sarah coaches Audrey through some of the stages of her anxiety and attempts to get her to start making eye contact with other people. Audrey communicates to her therapist that she feels frustrated at her lack of progress and that she feels she will never be well enough to lead a normal life. Dr. Sarah challenges Audrey to create a film about her family, with the intention to eventually start interviewing people. Dr. Sarah believes it might be easier for Audrey to make eye contact with people through the camera lens.
Things are going well until Audrey, deciding that she no longer needs to take her medication, stops abruptly. She keeps this a secret, along with her plan to meet a former tormentor against the wishes of her parents. When Linus hears about her plan to meet the bully, he agrees with her parents, voicing his concern that it could stir up emotions and lead to a setback.
In spite of all of the advice she receives, Audrey decides to follow her own desire, sneaking off to visit her former classmate. Her parents and Linus were right — seeing her former tormentor triggers symptoms of her mental illnesses, including an anxiety attack. In an attempt to soothe herself, Audrey takes a walk to the park where she falls asleep.
When her parents notice that she isn’t in her bed, they are overcome with worry. They call the police right away, initiating a search for their missing daughter. Not long after the search starts, someone finds Audrey fast asleep against a tree in the park.
The experience teaches Audrey some valuable lessons. First, she realizes that recovery is not a linear process and that she needs to take her time and be gentle with herself. Setbacks are a normal part of the recovery process. She also realizes the importance of taking her medication as instructed and never stopping her medication without proper guidance from a doctor.
The incident also helps to bring her family closer together again, as Audrey’s mom realizes the importance of being flexible and that life is far too short to expect perfection. She becomes more lenient with her children, allowing them to have junk food on occasion and even embracing their love of video games. Wanting to get in on the fun, Audrey’s father starts playing video games.
Through her work with Dr. Sarah and with the support of her family and Linus, Audrey learns to love and accept herself for who she is. She realizes that everyone operates on different timelines and that just because she reacts differently to certain situations it doesn’t make her a freak.