Book review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Delacorte Press, 2015

Fourteen-year-old British teen Audrey is making slow but steady progress dealing with her anxiety disorder, which she developed after a car accident and tremendously difficult bullying. This mysterious altercation(s) with the mean girls at her school has sent her deep into an anxiety spiral so her life has changed dramatically since she has been battling depression and anxiety disorders. She is now always wearing dark sunglasses, unable to leave the house, doesn’t attend school, and has an attack if she talks to anyone besides her family. Audrey records what goes on in her house since she has a very hard time going outside and the drama of her family. Her brother Linus’ friend comes into the picture, and her recovery gains momentum.

This YA romance novel with excellent dialogue was a witty and sassy quick read. It showed us the recovery from mental illness as opposed to the descent into it that many others reveal. Her dysfunctional family provided some comic relief, even though the author kept the mental illness topic gentler and more lightweight than other books on the same subject.

It was a lighthearted, limited angst, ofttimes humorous story about teen life, anxiety, first love, and family love that discussed mental health therapy techniques, but I’d have loved to hear more of the backstory that caused her the issues the book talks about.

Book review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Soho Teen, 2020

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera is a powerful and authentic Young Adult contemporary novel that follows a teenage boy, Aaron, and his struggles with sexuality, suicide, and family starting with summer break with his girlfriend Genevieve in a small, poor environment, and his desire to straighten himself out. He begins moving on from his father’s suicide as well as his own attempt.

A happy change for Aaron is befriending Thomas, another teen, because this friendship feels more genuine than his others. Now though this is a realistic novel, what’s different about Aaron’s world is an organization called Leteo, which helps people suppress their memories.

This book tackles difficult issues and relies on its strong cast of fully fleshed out main characters with issues and vulnerabilities to pull it through. The protagonist and his problems with mental health, as well as his quest to find happiness came across as realistic. The plot of this book itself is very much rooted in the actions and wants of the characters, and full of brain-wracking plot twists, themes of happiness/unhappiness, and bittersweet endings.

The author is great at weaving in the sci-fi elements of the story with a realistic portrayal of growing up gay in the Bronx with a twist that I didn’t see coming, while all the while being incredibly engrossing, thoughtful, devastating, and interesting with wonderful teenage character voices.

Book review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Harperteen, 2016

Paula Stokes YA novel, Girl Against the Universe is a fresh, informative, and powerful look at PTSD, grieving, and the rollercoaster of falling in love when your world is imploding. In this book we follow the protagonist, high school junior Maguire Kelly, who believes she makes bad things happen. After all her father, brother, and uncle died in a car crash that Maguire walked away from, a tennis mishap with Jordy, an unfortunate fall by his sister, or the neighbor’s house catching fire. There was even a time when a rollercoaster went off its tracks injuring her two friends leaving her thinking she’s a jinx.

So, what does Maguire do about it? She buys good luck charms and performs rituals, compulsive behaviors, so bad things don’t happen when she’s around. What she doesn’t do is listen to the logical explanation by her therapist. Instead, Maguire shields herself and hides away in her bedroom. That is so no one else can get hurt. What changes? Maguire meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star who enlists in helping her break her unlucky streak. They’re supportive of each other both in and out of therapy. It’s a very realistic, contemporary romantic tale about young love, therapy, and family relationships at a time when the character believes the whole world is against her.

Book review: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Henry Holt and Company, 2015

The protagonist, Skylar lives in a dusty California named Creek View where so far she’s beaten the odds of being a Creek View girl with a baby, in a mobile home, with no future. In a piddly three months Skylar can escape to fulfill her dreams. She has an art scholarship and is focused on moving. Just as she is about to leave, her mother loses her job and stays in bed all day, kicking off a chain of bad things.

Then she reconnects with Josh, a nineteen-year-old wounded warrior who escaped the only other way possible, joining the military. But Josh loses a leg in Afghanistan, and his jerklike attitude, and is also isolated in evolving ways that only Skylar may understand. They find each other at their seedy place of work, the Paradise Motel which becomes more of a home than his real home. Skylar also works at the motel, but spends her time dreaming about escaping the town.

These pained characters ultimately tell the hopeful tale of swimming against the tide in a tired town and of relationships that are complex and flawed. It’s a heartfelt, complicated, realistic look at love amidst poverty, PTSD, and depression.

Book review: How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

HarperTeen, 2017

How To Disappear protagonist, Vicky Decker, suffers from “absurd shyness,” “self-consciousness,” and introversion. The fun, rousing read starts with her friend Jenna, who kept her safe from social circumstances, moving away, leaving her utterly friendless and nearly agoraphobic. Vicky employs her savvy with digital media to craft the persona of the confident, socially adventurous person she’d like to be.

This depiction of yoyeuristic isolation of social media is a way to understand more the inner thoughts of people who are suffering from being judged or/and afraid of attention. When I read this book, the familiar feeling is not easy to approach because of the amount of uncomfortableness that the main character went through. Basically she is afraid of calling attention to herself and being laughed at and judged.

I really enjoyed this book because it is very relatable, since everyone has a moment in their life where they just want to disappear and not care about anything else. However, as you keep on reading, you’ll eventually find happiness when she finally feels a bit encouraged and connected with others. The novel had great characters, high drama, suspenseful chapters and its realistic fiction also seemed like a thriller.

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