Best-selling authors David Levithan (EVERY DAY) and Andrea Cremer (Nightshade series) team up in this contemporary/paranormal collaboration about an invisible boy and the only girl who can see him.
Stephen is cursed, he’s been invisible his whole life --- because of a spell his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, placed on Stephen’s mother before he was born. Growing up in NYC, in an apartment on the Upper West side, Stephen watches the millions of lives going on around him every day, and longs to be seen. Abandoned by a father who couldn’t deal with the stress of having an invisible son and lonelier than ever since the death of his mother a year ago, Stephen had resigned himself to a life in the background of society, never really there. That is, until Elizabeth moves into the apartment down the hall.
"The writing was relatable and brilliant. Cremer and Levithan are skilled writers and their styles are clear and to the point."
Elizabeth --- having fled Minnesota with her mother and younger brother, Laurie, after he was badly beaten for being gay --- can actually see Stephen! Stephen doesn’t know how or why, but of course, he is floored. At first, Elizabeth is so happy to have a friend that she doesn’t notice Stephen is different, invisible to others. A budding romance ensues as he shows her around the city and Central Park, but when she tries to introduce him to her brother the truth comes out. Ironically, it is Laurie --- funny, charismatic, upbeat Laurie (by far the best character in this book) --- who convinces Elizabeth not to give up on Stephen. Together, these three embark on a quest to break Stephen’s curse and unwittingly blunder into a fascinating secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers, in which they discover that Elizabeth is the key to setting Stephen free.
With alternating chapters written from Stephen’s point of view and Elizabeth’s, this book is certainly an interesting experiment. When I heard Cremer and Levithan read from it at a YA panel, they explained that Elizabeth was Cremer’s character and Stephen was Levithan’s.
Perhaps one of my biggest issues with this novel was that I just didn’t feel the love between Elizabeth and Stephen. They seemed to tip-toe around each other, always worrying about the other’s feelings and fretting about protecting the other from harm ad nauseam. Compared to some of Cremer’s other books, the attraction between these two is tame and slow-paced. There was no mention of butterflies, no passionate kissing, no lust; instead, there were long nights of watching the other sleep and holding each other. Considering that this is supposed to be a novel “about the unseen elements of attraction….and the invisible desires that live within us all," the romance is surprisingly absent, and instead, rational thought and honesty seem to be the emphasis in this relationship, which is all well and good but certainly not fun to read for 300+ pages.
So, if love isn’t the focus then you would think the paranormal element would be heightened. But if the words “spellseeking” and “cursecasting” invoke images of epic, spell casting battles a lá Harry Potter, no dice. The only really interesting magic in this book comes from the antagonist, the grandfather, Arbus, who cast the curse of invisibility on Stephen. Arbus’s curses are incredibly original, and so awful they make you cringe and quickly try to shake painful images from your head. For example, one man is so cold that he tries to light himself on fire to warm up; another woman itches so badly that she starts to rip off her skin; a mother forgets her daughter exists, and a little boy is forced to eat dirt. This is where I could really see the creativity and imagination of Levithan and Cremer come to life. However, in a book called INVISIBILITY that takes place in NYC, there was surprisingly little raucous fun to be had. Not once does Stephen take advantage of being invisible, he instead prefers to watch others and mope. I expected there to be at least one crazy, funny scene in which he goes wild and pretends to be a ghost or robs a bank!
Maybe I’m being unfair. The writing was relatable and brilliant. Cremer and Levithan are skilled writers and their styles are clear and to the point. My favorite character was Laurie, the gay younger brother who, despite his traumatic experience in high school in Minnesota, moves to NYC ready to start fresh and put the past behind him. Not many teenagers can go through what this character did and not hold a grudge against the world or live in fear. You could tell that Levithan and Cremer really enjoyed writing this character, and he always seems to say the right thing and recognize what is important. Perhaps a little too mature for his age, Laurie is still the gay best friend or sweet younger brother we all wish we had.
INVISIBILITY is worth a read if you have the time and want a sensitive, paranormal YA book about loneliness, self acceptance and growing up, but it didn't wow me as much as their previous books. What it comes down to is that I expect a team up of writers like Cremer and Levithan to blow my socks off, and that didn't quite happen. Ultimately though,Levithan and Cremer do succeed in highlighting a major feeling in teenage relationships; “the thing more frightening than magic or curses: trusting someone else. Loving someone else. Needing someone else.”
Reviewed by Alice Dalrymple on May 2, 2013
- Publication Date: May 7, 2013
- Genres: Young Adult 12+
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Philomel
- ISBN-10: 0399257608
- ISBN-13: 9780399257605