She Is Not Invisible
After hearing hype about Marcus Sedgwick for the last couple of years, I had to try She Is Not Invisible, and I didn’t really care what it was about or anything. I just knew that I needed to read a Sedgwick book. I was nervous, though, because She Is Not Invisible is a mystery, which isn’t really my thing, and I also think he’s better known for horror (also not my thing and maybe meaning mysteries aren’t his thing?). Whatever, though, because I like to branch out and try new things. In this case, adventurous reading has paid off richly. Sedgwick’s writing is gorgeous, his characters realistic and well-drawn, and the subject thought provoking and unique.
Let’s set some expectations, shall we? This is listed as a contemporary and a mystery, both of which are accurate. However, it’s more of a high concept consideration of coincidence and the writing process. There’s a mystery of sorts, but not the kind that would appeal too much to a mystery enthusiast. It’s not really about the mystery. The focus lies more on the emotional journey of Laureth’s family, as spurred by her actual journey to NYC with her brother in search of her father.
Laureth’s family is by no means perfect, but they are loving, which is a great change of pace. In fact, initially, it definitely seems like the typical YA messed up family. They’re going through a rough patch, and ultimately they do care. The family’s a bit at the mercy of the father’s moods. Jack Peak is an author. From him came Laureth’s unusual name, which is part of a shampoo ingredient. Peak’s books used to be immensely popular, back when he wrote humorous novels, but for the last few years he’s been driven to write something Literary. Both his popularity and the family’s finances are on a downswing as he’s writing less and his writing is less well-received.
As She Is Not Invisible opens, teen Laureth is taking her 7-year-old brother and heading for New York City to find their missing father. She became worried after receiving a mysterious email from a man who said he had Jack’s writing notebook. When her father didn’t answer his phone and her mother wasn’t worried, Laureth decided to take matters into her own hands and track him down. As I said, the mystery isn’t really what you might expect. It mostly involves delving into his writing notes for his novel he’s writing on coincidence, more than traditional investigation.
You might be wondering why she would bring her younger brother, Benjamin, along, complete with his raven Stan. Well, she didn’t really have another choice. See, the thing is that Laureth is blind. It’s not a big deal, but it does make getting around an unfamiliar city alone pretty much impossible. What I love is that you don’t even learn she’s blind immediately, and that it in no way defines her. She’s very capable and doesn’t feel incapacitated, but she’s also not some sort of Daredevil superhero. She’s real and living the only life she has. I also love when someone asks her if his being black changes things, and she’s like “dude, I don’t even really know what that means.” It’s another beautiful reason for why racism is stupid. The title draws from the way people treat her, as though they’re the Bugblatter Beast of Traal and can’t see Laureth because she can’t see them. Basically, this book shows blindness in a very real and empowering way, not empowering like she’s magical or overcomes anything; she is who she is and lives her life accordingly, like everybody does. I applaud this so hard.
As the novel unfolds, I loved watching the family members become more real. At first, they look so flawed. The mother doesn’t seem to care about any of them, off to a party when her husband is missing and so unaware that her children flew across the Atlantic without her noticing. The father’s unhealthy obsession with coincidence is destroying the marriage and the financial prospects of the family. He seems to be off researching constantly and neglecting the family. All of this is true, but it’s not the full picture, and I liked watching the characters flesh out.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The included snippets of Jack Peak’s notes about his coincidence book were full of interesting facts, but also kind of a hot mess. My attention waned a bit in those sections, but I did love the window into the writing process the novel offered. There are some lovely discussions of weighing inspiration with what will be a success, and of what it takes to make a novel. The ending of the novel suggested there might be a hidden message in the first letter of every chapter, and I had to see if that was true. Of course it was. So clever!
The Final Verdict:
She Is Not Invisible is a lovely, high concept novel. It’s for people who love to think, and I urge those who generally only read adult to try this one as well, since I think it will have a lot of appeal for adult literary fiction readers as well as teens.
Not only that, but you really have to suspend reality for a little while. Now I don't have any problems with Laureth being blind and traveling. I know lots of blind people who travel. But having it be so easy for Laureth and Ben to travel from London to New York without having hardly any issues at all? Um, no. So not possible. Especially when they have never traveled on their own before.
Ben and Laureth I really enjoyed.There aren't enough books that have a sister and brother that really enjoy being around each other. They were my favorite part of the book but even they weren't enough to make me enjoy the book. The writing style was really weird and I think that if there wasn't a philosophy lecture at every chapter, I could have overlooked the strange writing.
The ending was really anticlimactic. I was expecting something quite different from what I got and I was left feeling very disappointed. This book was just not one that I enjoyed. Hopefully others will find it enjoyable but I did not. I'll be giving it 2 stars. The overabundance of philosophy just really ruined the book for me.