A charming YA book, funny and heart-warming. I’ve read most of this author’s novels and I think this is one of her best. The story revolves around a fourteen-year-old girl Audrey and is told from her POV.
A few month before the book starts, Audrey was a victim of relentless bullying at school, but that’s behind her now. Then she had a nervous breakdown, an acute panic disorder, and had to spend a month in a psychiatric ward, but that’s in the past as well.
The book starts with Audrey on the road to recovery. Her family is fully supportive, the bullies have been punished, and Audrey has been pulled out of school. She stays home for a while, she regularly visits a therapist. In short, she is getting better.
But recovery from a mental illness is never straightforward. Like Audrey’s therapist points out, it’s the process best represented by a jugged graph, something like this one.
The author never explains the particulars of the dramatic events in Audrey’s past; she leaves them to the reader’s imagination. The plotline itself is light and a bit frivolous. It is about family, first love, and computer gaming. Even though the dark events of the past cast their gloomy shadows on the present, life goes on, full of absurdities and discoveries.
Audrey is still afraid of human contact. She wears dark sunglasses, because eye contact is the worst of all contacts: it leaves her open. But then, her older brother’s friend, sixteen-year-old Linus, visits, and Audrey starts reevaluating her fear of contacts. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad with this particular boy?
He seems interested too and understanding of her predicament. Maybe they could have a little bit of contact after all? Maybe shoe contact... or thumb contact...
And then there is the family. Like any family, it’s crazy, with a number of idiosyncrasies, but Kinsella paints them all with such a loving and humorous brush, the reader can’t help but get behind this family. We laugh at their antics. We sympathize with their problems. We want them to get through the difficult streak and have it easier. But is it ever easy for anyone?
After her first platonic kiss with Linus, Audrey has a conversation with her therapist.
“And now I haven’t heard from him and I have no idea what he’s thinking, and it stresses me out...” Dr. Sarah doesn’t reply immediately, and I sigh. “I know, I know. I have an illness and it’s fully treatable.”
There’s another long silence. Dr. Sarah’s mouth is twitching.
“You know, Audrey?” she says at last. “I hate to break it to you, but getting stressed over what boys are thinking after they’ve kissed you may not be fully treatable. Not fully.”
The author tackles several heavy topics in this book and approaches them with tact and understanding. Love is the key, she seems to say. It helps us through hardships and losses. Even though nobody is perfect, love will get us through. Parents’ love. Siblings’ love. First love.
I couldn’t put this book down and I’d recommend it to anyone.