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Big Picture

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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

Audrey, Wait!

Written by Robin Benway

“I broke up with Evan, and eight hours later, he had a song in his head and a guitar in his hand and it snowballed from there.” That is, if anything, an understatement: “Audrey, wait” are the last words Audrey hears from Evan as she walks away after dumping him, and his hastily penned song about the breakup premieres with his band that night in front of not only Audrey and her peers but also an interested record executive. Suddenly “Audrey, Wait!” is the hot new single, and Audrey’s initial reaction is mortification at having her breakup literally broadcast to all and sundry. She’s even more nonplussed, though, when her strange reflected fame becomes a viral outbreak in its own right, with other musicians wanting to have face time—and sucking-face time—with her for good luck, her fashion choices launching trends, and pro- and anti-Audrey factions launching into a fever of blogging and chatting all over the internet (“Your 15 minutes are up, Audrey. kthxbye”). Worst of all, the teeming paparazzi and microscopic focus make it hard for her to embark on a new relationship with her sweet co-worker at the mall, James.

It’s a clever conceit, and Benway’s craftsmanship lifts it well above the merely original. Audrey’s narration is swift, self-aware, and contemporary in its touch of ironic distance as well as in its style. She’s surrounded by characters of character, ranging from her inseparable BFF Victoria, who’s Audrey’s sounding board, constant support (“The way I see it, if crazy people hate you, you’re ahead of the game,” she reassures Audrey about her online bashing), and partner in banter, through Victoria’s loyal and tolerant boyfriend, Jonah, and to Audrey’s solidly loving parents, baffled about the dilemma their daughter’s found herself in but determined to defend her as she sorts it out. The book is also refreshingly current in its sensibilities as well as its references (each chapter, in fact, opens with an epigraph from a contemporary band). Not only are the waves of the phenomenon driven by the instantaneous sharing made possible by the infinitely networked world of cellphones and internet, Audrey herself is absolutely a part of this world, filling in her own memory blanks about her experience from web postings and directly addressing the reader (“I know you saw the video”) to underscore the audience membership in the same world. It’s therefore a book that manages to explore the changed nature of the relationship between subject and viewer, making it clear that those roles can shift in an instant and that the power can go in both directions.

What really makes the book sing, though, is Audrey herself, who’s neither a deer caught in the headlights nor a brassy famehound riding on the surface of the changes to her life. Instead, she’s a realistically cool urbane girl, up to the minute on the music scene and psyched at the chance to make out with her favorite up-and-coming singer while capable of subsequently dismissing him, when he turns out to be a jerk, with “It’s the biggest no you’ve ever heard in your life, you fucking parasite”; at the same time, she adores her “land mass of a cat” and earns her spending money slinging ice cream at the Scooper Dooper, dancing along to the Muzak. Her relationship with Victoria is endearing and enduring, despite the occasional bump, and her romance with James (initially just an awkward and shy co-worker, he turns out to be a truly nice guy) is adorably promising despite the adverse circumstances. Current, fresh, and funny, this will rocket up the charts with fans of Cohn and Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (BCCB 6/06).

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

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Cover image ©2008. Used by permission of Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group.

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This page was last updated on April 1, 2008.