Sophie Kinsella’s first YA novel, Finding Audrey, is about a teen girl finding her way out of a black place after a psychologically damaging incident. But it’s also about the ridiculous awesomeness of overprotective parents, sibling bonds, and first love. Audrey hides behind dark glasses and finds it easiest to brave the world through a camera lens, but Kinsella makes even her constricted home life—Audrey’s biggest issue, as she struggles with social anxiety, is a fear of the outside world—into a place worth visiting, through Audrey’s keen observations of her brothers (one a video game addict, the other a highly unreasonable four-year-old), her cautionary tale–obsessed mother, and the dad who’s just trying to keep them all from coming apart…when he’s not Googling muscle cars. Audrey’s healing process is helped along by a sweet romance, with a patient boy who wants to know the girl behind the sunglasses. Here’s Kinsella on the inspiration behind their love story, which starts with note-passing.
When I think of my first teenage love, I recall many things. The moment I first saw him and felt that flutter in my stomach. The way I had to find out his name, right now. The way I kept asking friends about him, in a totally unsubtle way. (I’m not sure I ever improved in the subtlety department, actually.)
But most of alI, I remember the way we finally got together. We were members of a tennis club which had alphabetized pigeonholes for notes. This was before mobile phones, so we kids used to leave each other notes all the time. Mostly along the lines of, “Can you play tennis on Tuesday?”
But then came the day of The Note. It was from him. And it wasn’t about tennis. It was about…
Well, I won’t quote it exactly. Let’s just say it was flattering. He wondered if I had noticed him the way he had noticed me. He asked for a reply. It was very sweetly old-fashioned. He could practically have “remained my faithful servant,” it was so polite.
I clutched this note all afternoon in a kind of fiery joy. I couldn’t believe such a thing existed. Of course, compared to a Facebook post or a text, it was a slow and cumbersome way of communicating. It didn’t allow for an immediate reply. It didn’t contain any smiley faces, or a photo of any part of his anatomy. (Thank God. I would have run a mile.)
But it was charming, and I still have it in an old box somewhere. There’s something magical about handwriting on paper, the rustle of an envelope, as opposed to a bleep of a phone. Yes, you can print out a text message, but it doesn’t have quite the same appeal.
It was partly this memory which prompted me to include some old-fashioned note-writing in my young adult book, Finding Audrey. My teenage heroine, Audrey, suffers from social anxiety disorder. She finds communicating face to face difficult; even phones are a challenge. But she can write a note. And so Audrey kindles love through notes, passed via the go-between of her little brother. Her first “kiss” happens on paper. But it’s no less real to her for that. And she can keep it forever.
It would be so sad if we lost paper letters forever. So I hope that some readers of Finding Audrey might be inspired to write a message—to a boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, or friend. Just a little something that they can read, read again…and then treasure.
Finding Audrey is adorable, and it’s on sale now.