“An anxiety disorder disrupts 14-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.”
As an Army Wife of 11 years, Renelle knows the flow of the military. She has PCS’ed 5 times! She’s made and lost friends; bought and sold houses.
Renelle is also a mother of two, and recently worked as a pharmacy technician thanks to MyCAA. Unfortunately, the demands of the the military and providing educational supervision for her ten-year old required her to quit.
Her Netflix of choice is Korean drama!
1. In the first scene, Audrey’s mom was about throw Frank’s computer out the window. As a mom or a child, can you relate? What was your reaction?
As a mom, I can definitely relate because it makes me crazy how my daughter can have the attention span and energy to stay up for hours on the computer playing Roblox with her friends, but if I ask her to do literally anything else, she is too sleepy or it’s too boring, or a million other excuses she will have and it drives me crazy! I wouldn’t go as far as throwing the computer out the window though. That’s a bit extreme especially since it’s my money spent to buy it, not hers!
I thought this was going to be a melodramatic young adult book, then I thought this is a mother on the edge. I could relate as a kid to Mom being so incredibly frustrated by kids that don’t listen. I didn’t think she would destroy Frank’s computer, but I can’t say it was unnecessary. Sometimes it’s worth the money to teach kids boundaries.
2. What was your reaction to the way Audrey experienced anxiety and her coping strategies?
I have not personally seen it in real life but maybe in a movie or another book. Either way, it didn’t seem like a totally out of place reaction for me for someone dealing with social anxiety.
Even though I didn’t know exactly what happened to her, when they mentioned [wearing] shades inside and outside all of the time, not being able to look people in the eye, or touch, it seemed like a reasonable reaction to some sort of trauma.
Audrey wearing sunglasses even at home was a first for me. It seems like an effective way to cope with anxiety enough so she could still interact with family. Otherwise, she probably would have exclusively stayed in her room. Making a documentary was both an interesting choice from the author and a good way to get Audrey involved in her family’s lives behind the protection of the camera.
3. What were your expectations for Audrey’s relationship with Linus? Why do you think Linus was the one to help Audrey change?
I had no expectations for Audrey and Linus. It went exactly the way I thought would. Love, infatuation, sex, whatever along those lines can be a motivator for a lot of things. So much so that it made her skip steps in her recovery and had her thinking she was better. I also saw that coming, by the way. Seemed like she already had a crush on him [when he played the] Atticus Finch character.
I was scared for Audrey to get involved with Linus! At first, I thought it was great that he was patient enough to help her expand her boundaries, but I have little faith in young people and was afraid he would find a way to break Audrey’s heart and send her deep into depression. His experience with his senile grandma gave him the emotional capacity to still see Audrey as a person and not just a mental case.
4. Frank is serious about a made-up game called LOC, but his mom wanted him to have a normal balanced life. Given there was actually money to be made as a gamer, do you think Frank should have been allowed to play?
I am a firm believer in balance, so yes. But in some ways I think that was Frank’s way of dealing with his sister’s trauma and the discord it caused in the household. It was his way of acting out and getting his mom’s attention as well. I think this because once Audrey started to get better, he was able to also get in to cooking and really enjoy that as well. That’s balance.
I think gaming can definitely be a lucrative source of income. Not sure if the way he was going about it would be the way to make said money in that field. The way people buy and play games, though, I’m sure there is tons of money to be made testing and creating and probably even playing like they did [with] LOC. I have no clue for sure though about the playing part the way they did in the book.
Anne’s struggle to stop Frank from playing LOC was warranted and excessive. It was fair to want Frank to have more balance in his life, but Mom was letting the Daily Mail article get to her. The fact that Frank was absorbed for the sake of being able to compete showed that he wasn’t just trying to escape reality, which may have even been understandable given the recent drama happening in his family.
I was torn about allowing kids to pursue goals like this. Gaming is a viable career now, but teen age is too young to have tunnel vision on one area of development.
5. The parents of one of the girls involved in the bullying incident reach out for a meeting with Audrey’s family. What was your initial response to the request? What do you think Izzy’s family’s goal was?
Let me start by saying Audrey’s mom and dad–mostly her mom–were definitely over protective they didn’t even give the people a chance or Audrey for that matter to make a decision on what she wanted, and I think that should have been important.
Those parents, though, definitely did that for their kid. It had nothing to do with apologizing to Audrey and they knew that from jump. Linus just knew is wasn’t necessary for Audrey’s recovery because she was doing so well without it. [He knew] that it would only hurt her more than help her, but I guess she needed to see that for herself…it’s like that sometimes.
When Izzy’s family reached out, I thought Audrey’s parents were being too protective by saying “no.” I thought it might have been healing for Audrey to receive an apology. But the point of the meeting was not to apologize at all. I guess it was to show how Izzy was suffering as a result. Maybe they hoped Audrey would tell her it was okay? I was glad Audrey and Frank had the wherewithal to perceive that the meeting wasn’t for Audrey’s benefit and leave.
6. Audrey was hospitalized for six weeks following the incident and was currently under medical supervision. Seeing how fragile Izzy’s mental state was when Frank and Audrey met with her, do you have any ideas about what happened? Did it bother you that the incident was never revealed?
Man, I try to figure out what the heck happened from the time the book talked about Audrey’s shades because then I knew there was trauma. It irked me that they never said what happened.
Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I think Izzy and her parents (or maybe just Izzy or just her parents to make them feel less guilty) may have milked it a bit because it wasn’t just Audrey and Izzy involved. If I remember correctly, it was at least two or three maybe four other girls as well that bullied Audrey, so why was Kate [the only one] so messed up by the whole ordeal? Unless Kate was the ringleader in it all then I guess that would make sense. There is always a ringleader. She wasn’t the ringleader.
It didn’t bother me that we never found out what happened to Audrey in the first place. I can’t fathom what was so bad that even the bully was traumatized. Maybe she was traumatized by being held accountable and having to reconcile being such a hateful person. A lot of times victims suffer in silence, and this was one time the bully seems to have gotten a proportionate consequence.
7. How did your understanding of the story change when you learned Audrey’s mom, Anne, had previously had an active and successful career?
I guess it would make sense why she was so overbearing. Audrey mentioned her being bright and shiny and [recalled] her picture on the dresser when she was at work, which meant she was really good at her job. She had to have a place to put all that energy.
I assume there had to be guilt and shame because she traveled a lot and probably missed the little signs of her daughter being bullied and until it got to the point of where it was just too late and the damage was already done. But even when she was home she missed things important things with her other kids like how she thought Frank was imbalanced. He had good grades, and he was fit, but she chose to focus on his obsession would LOC, which seemed fine to me.
LOC was just his way of getting away from the crap that was going on in his house. But it’s safe to say though that everyone was affected by what happened to Audrey so I can’t blame her.
When I realized Anne was on hiatus from her career, I understood why she was so obsessive about her family. She was used to working and transferred that energy to the family. Once Audrey wasn’t so needy, she started obsessing over smaller things. Mom was also probably traumatized by not having been able to protect her child and compensating in response.
8. What part of the story or what quote sticks with you?
The thing that hit home with me the most out of the book was probably the graph that Audrey and her therapist were going back-and-forth about. Audrey thought her graph should be a straight line up, but the therapist was reminding her that it’s actually a jagged one.
To put it simply there are steps to this **** when it comes to recovering from any type of trauma big or small. I remember laughing out loud when Audrey said she was “proper fixed” or something like that because she was feeling better because things were going well with Linus. Her therapist had to gently remind her that she was still taking meds and still wearing her shades; [she wasn’t fixed].
I found the statement about anxiety making you self-centered a really good and applicable point. ““When we suffer prolonged anxiety, we have the tendency to become self-obsessed.” We become obsessed with what others think about us, and we focus on how we feel so much we might be neglecting or harming our relationships. I think this is very relevant to women in the military who constantly cancel plans with people trying to befriend them or hold one-sided relationships.
9. What was your overall impression of the book?
I really enjoyed this book, I really related to this book. I knew the steps that her therapist spoke of, I knew Audrey struggles, and I think maybe that’s why the author did not put a specific event to the story. Because it doesn’t matter. Anxiety, depression, mental illness, short- or long-term, this book is relatable.
The internal dialog with herself, the feeling of being fixed when you finally have those couple of good days outside of that fog or darkness or whatever you may call that place–your mental illness or “lizard brain”–hold you captive only to fall back again. I enjoyed it because it shows that it’s ok to have a graph that’s slow-going and jagged, especially when you have family and friends that support you through it. You can eventually find your normal again even if it wasn’t the same as before.
Overall, I thought the book was a good read. It told a story I would otherwise be very far removed from as an adult that hasn’t experienced bullying and doesn’t struggle with anxiety on a consistent basis. I hope anxiety and depression suffers can draw some hope from this story.
For the full discussion, check out the podcast!