How I Identified with a Fictional Depressed Girl

I’m a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of A Shopaholic series. Each chic lit novel is a fun, quick read about a frivolous girl getting herself into silly situations. So, naturally, when I saw that Kinsella was publishing a YA novel I jumped right on it, expecting more fun.

What I got was a pleasant and therapeutic surprise. Finding Audrey is an entirely different beat.

This isn’t a book review, per se. I’d rather focus on how well Kinsella illustrates depression in this novel. I would know: I’ve been battling depression all my life.

In Finding Audrey, we follow the titular protagonist as she takes steps to overcome her depression and anxiety. She regularly meets with a therapist and sets goals to become more comfortable wi
th herself and around others.

Audrey spends a lot of time in her head. She says to herself things like, “I should just hide away. I shouldn’t even exist. What’s the point of me, anyway?” These could have been my own words. I suffered through bouts of depression in high school, college, and my adult life.

As I read through the novel, I highlighted furiously. The amount of yellow text started to creep me out. All the ways Kinsella described how Audrey felt were ways I, myself, have felt constantly. I had a lot in common with Audrey. Her story was like my story.

That commonality was therapeutic. It was cathartic. Someone out there knows how I’ve felt most of my life. I smiled when I finished the book. I knew that young girls and boys would read it and find the same comfort I did. Maybe they’ll find hope in their own situations. I wish I’d read it when I was that age.

Audrey meets a boy, Linus, who helps her overcome her anxiety by giving her little challenges. For example, he pushes her to go to Starbucks and order a drink, which is a huge step for her. For a while, I was a bit put off by Linus’s role in Audrey’s story. It kind of reinforces the idea that a girl needs a boyfriend to help her tackle life’s challenges.

But when I step back in think about it, I realize no one does anything alone. Actually, Audry’s parents, her brother, Frank, and her therapist all help her as well. To get through depression you need the support of friends and family. Having a significant other by your side definitely helps but isn’t essential.

As a side note, I’m disappointed by the reaction of some readers. So many fans of Kinsella’s books are judging this book by her previous work. Because this novel is so different from her light-hearted fare, they see it as something negative. Authors should have the freedom to try new things. To avoid repetition. I won’t always write YA fantasy and sci-fi and hope my future readers can accept that.

At any rate, Finding Audrey reminds me of the power of empathy. I am an adult man empathizing with a fictional teenage girl. I suspect Kinsella went to depression at some point in her life, as she describes it so succinctly. Either that or she did some heavy research.

I hope that one day my novels can impact readers the way this book has touched me. I want readers to finish my books with a sense of hopefulness. As if I left them a personal message saying, Hey, I know what you’re going through and everything is going to be okay.

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