Paper Hearts | S. R. Savell | Medallion Press | April 2014 | ISBN 9781605426907
*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication Date: June 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.
Audrey struggles with severe anxiety disorder. There was an incident, a secret that Audrey keeps to herself, but it left her unable to make eye contact, unable to speak to anyone who wasn’t her immediate family, and isolated in her house. Then she meets Linus. His doesn’t treat her like a patient, or someone with an illness, but he treats her like a friend, communicating in a patient and comfortable way. He pushes her and encourages her. With his help, Audrey begins to bloom.
First of all, I loved Audrey. I thought she was really real and relatable. Right off the bat, she mentions that something happened with the girls at school that lead her to this lower point in her life, but I loved that she comes right out and says, “We don’t have to reveal everything to each other. That’s another thing I’ve learned in therapy: it’s OK to be private. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to share that.’ So, if you don’t mind, let’s just leave it there.” Audrey knows we, the readers exist. She constantly addresses us, letting us know that she’s ok with us being there. So, I guess you could say we’re right apart of the process with her. We’re a friend that Audrey is able to open up to about mostly everything. But because the reader is a confidante, we only get to know the things that Audrey tells us. I loved that she kept some secrets.
Audrey’s journey through her story is one of highs and lows. It’s a learning experience for her as she desperately tries to get to a place in her life where she can be content. She wants to laugh and she wants to smile. It’s maddening at times that she craves these positive emotions, but she can’t quite get there. You witness her struggle up close and personal, and it’s that connection that will have you rooting for Audrey and willing her to succeed. But in her own time of course. Audrey experiences first hand, the setbacks that can occur with pushing too far too fast.
I’m loving this dialogue about mental illness. Kinsella opens up a conversation about anxiety disorders and what it can be like for someone who experiences severe anxiety, particularly social. Audrey is suffering, but she’s so very strong, although she doesn’t always feel that way. Audrey isn’t afraid to share her thoughts and feelings, her fears and her insecurities, with us. It’s a hard path that she’s on, but her story is one of success. I thoroughly enjoyed Kinsella’s YA novel. I’ve never read any of Kinsella’s other books, but I can say that she’s done a great job in the young adult genre.
How does Audrey’s story compare to other stories of mental illness? Do you think that Kinsella opens up a conversation about anxiety?
Thank you to Rebel for the review copy of her new novel, Awakening. Rebel took the time to answer a few questions for me about her book. See what she had to say below. Review to come soon!
What was your inspiration for writing Awakening?
I always knew I wanted to write a novel, but didn’t know when or about what. My inspiration was very sudden. I was thumbing through the successes of up-and-coming authors in the latest issue of my alumni magazine when the opening sentence to the novel popped into my head: “I am a queen.” It sounded like a story that needed to be told. But a sentence does not a book make! So I had to start thinking about who this ‘queen’ was and how she came to be. My reading library is as eclectic as my musical tastes. You’ll find erotic romances to theories on the foundations of the universe and everything in between. I found the idea of bringing a coming-of-age romance (also known as new adult romance) into a future setting where new experiences in sexuality, love and career could be explored in greater depth very appealing.
Can you briefly walk me through the process of having your first novel published?
I started my novel in November 2014 and finished and submitted my evaluated manuscript for copy editing six months later. My novel is set hundreds of years in the future, so I needed to start out with a clear vision of the world I was creating. The world had to feel real to me, so that when I wrote about it, the underpinnings of the Realm − the society in which my characters live – would come naturally to me. After developing my world bible, as authors call it, I booked time in daily to work on the novel. I work in communications during the day, so I spent my lunch hours and my train commutes with my headphones on, typing away on my iPad. Even if I felt like what I was writing wasn’t working, I would tweak it a bit then plow ahead. What helped was setting a hard deadline. In addition to a day job, I have two children, which makes for a busy household – there’s simply no time to procrastinate! During writing the first draft, I made a conscious decision not to research writing advice. It’s contrary to popular advice, but my goal was to try to find or develop my own voice first, and then when the rough draft was done, seek guidance through my editor and online resources on how to refine it. The writing community is incredible. There’s a wealth of knowledge available online and, believe me, I took advantage of it! Writing Awakening was such an exhilarating experience. I enjoyed every moment of it even when assaulted by plot ideas and dialogue that I had to jot down in the middle of the night!
What was your greatest challenge in writing this novel?
Anything to do with names! The Realm is based on a caste system that puts great value on an individual’s role and contribution to society. All of my characters have last names that reflect their occupation and so, rank. Trying to think of different ways to refer to a scientist or an administrator made me a very regular visitor to Thesaurus.com! Also, the title of the novel went through about ten names before I settled on Awakening. It reflects the female lead’s coming-of-age experiences in all aspects of her life – sexuality, career, love, and family and social relationships. My advice is to any new or aspiring authors is to wait until your novel is almost complete before trying to confirm an appropriate title. The story will tell you what it wants to be called.
Is there a character you relate to most? And why?
I probably relate the most to Sela, the female lead’s best friend. During high school, I loved hanging out with the girls who were the most rebellious. I tend to be very practical, reliable and straight-forward. While I normally question popular beliefs and opinions, I do it in a quiet way. I think I enjoyed living vicariously through those high school girlfriends. I suppose writing about strong female leads is simply my adult way of living vicariously and expressing that rebelliousness!
Author: Wednesday Martin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers’ snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns, display rituals, physical adornment, mutilation, mating practices, extra-pair copulation, and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.
There’s a lot of controversy around the truthfulness of Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue and to be honest, her style of writing and her stories seem somewhat falsified without the claims made in the media. Wednesday and her husband move into an apartment on Park Avenue, and while the author takes a humorous, Jane Goodall and the apes type approach to her observations on the socialite wives of the wealthiest neighbourhood in Manhattan, her descriptions don’t really allow us to get to know these women and their inner thoughts, feelings and experiences. Martin’s observations come off as the thoughts of the scorned outsider, eager to fit in, but decidedly never fully included in the goings on of the group that she so desires to assimilate in to.
While Martin’s style of writing had me chuckling sometimes, imaging the women as bonobos, gorillas, or various apes, her descriptions do little to share the truth of these women’s lives. She glosses over their struggles with anxiety and the immense pressure to fit into a world that expects an incredible amount, to focus instead on the ridiculous prices of handbags and blowouts. It was a bit of a struggle to read because I wanted more. Her stories felt like anecdotes and gossip told at the lunch table with your gals, not the truth of the life of these women who, although are extraordinarily affluent, live an intense life of expected perfection and unattainable expectations.
I was not as impressed as I’d hoped with Martin’s book. A bit of a flop in my opinion.
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Ready Player One has to be one of the best, if not the best novel, I’ve read this year. I’ve lost faith in the dystopian sci-fi genre a little bit, and although this novel is a few years old, it’s reminded me that there is good dystopian fiction still out there, it just doesn’t come along every day. I haven’t been this excited about a book in ages. I couldn’t put it down. The story is captivating, fast-paced, and heart-stopping.
Who will find the Easter Eggs left by Halliday, the creator of the online life simulator, OASIS? Only time will tell. Wade is a student in this not-so-distant future society. In the real world, life has deteriorated to a poverty-stricken, violent society, not safe for anyone where no one has the money to live out their dreams. So, they turn to the OASIS where levelling up and facing challenges brings money, strength, prestige, and in some cases notoriety. Money gained in the OASIS translates to money in real life. Anything is possible in this vast and ever expanding world.
The story was incredible, but Wade wasn’t always the best protagonist. At times he’s insensitive, impulsive, foolish, and annoying. There are sections in the middle where Wade has various monologue-esque portions that are a tad difficult to struggle through. But I think Wade’s flaws are the point of his story. He is a character who isn’t perfect. He’s quite imperfect actually. He hasn’t had much structure in his upbringing and he’s never known ease in his life. He’s had to make his own way in his unbelievably difficult world and he turns out to be a strong young man, loyal to his friends and capable of the purest love.
If you’re looking for an excellent book to read this summer, I’d suggest Ready Player One. It’s an exciting page turner that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.