So, here’s a YA novel by one of my favourite authors! Well, that’s the tag it comes with, but then technically, it’s not YA. It’s more like a dark and disturbing story of anxiety disorder through the dark-glassed eyes of a yet-to-grow-and-learn teenager. Audrey, the protagonist is an ordinary teenager who lives with her very ordinary family (she thinks her family is the weirdest, though). The mother hardly finds any time for herself because her day consists of worrying about Audrey’s condition and her son, Frank’s computer game addiction. The father is a helpless man stuck between the job which he would probably lose and the problems at home. A few pages into the story and the reader understands that Audrey has been through some traumatic incident at school which has made her ‘ill’ and throughout the book it is never mentioned what exactly it was. There are subtle hints about bullying, though. And that is one of the best things about the book. The story is about Audrey and how she copes with her ‘condition’. Talking in detail about the cause would only have changed the focus of the story.
Another important character in the story is Linus, Frank’s friend who later turns out to be Audrey’s kind-of-boyfriend. Though the synopsis made it look like this was going to be one of those stories where Prince Charming fixes everything for the Damsel in Distress, it isn’t. Linus is no prince. He is just another awkward teenager in an awkward situation who doesn’t know how to show his concern for Audrey without actually calling her ‘crazy’. Audrey starts panicking less with Linus around and he’s the only stranger she gets comfortable with. Dr. Sarah, Audrey’s therapist, is another intimidating character who is nothing like the stereotypical psychiatrists with their ‘positive thinking’ and ‘it’s not real’ lectures. Dr. Sarah is more practical, realistic and understanding. She explains terms like ‘lizard brain’ and how to handle it. She helps Audrey find different ways to get out of her shell.
Though it is a light reading and a comedy, it is evident that a lot of research has gone into it. The author hasn’t done a hasty job with half-baked knowledge. The author really knows what anxiety disorder is and how a person affected by it feels. I think anybody suffering with any kind of mental illness or anybody who wants to understand mental illness must read this book. It lets the reader have a peek into the head of Audrey, making the reader realize that she is a person after all, no different from a teenager who has never had a trauma or any kind of disorder. The book can be summed up in this one quote,
“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 upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.”