“One final time I told myself I wasn’t abducting my little brother.”
When Laureth Peak gets an email from a man in New York saying he’s found her father’s notebook, she is…alarmed. Last her family knew, he was in Austria or Switzerland or some equally mountainous European country to do research for a book he’s been working on for eons. She becomes even more alarmed when her repeated attempts to contact him come up fruitless. Her mother is strangely nonplussed when Laureth voices her concern, so she does what any plucky, concerned daughter would do: she decides to go to New York to retrieve the notebook and, if need be, find her kinda sorta missing father. The catch: Laureth is blind. The solution: she brings her seven year old brother to act as her guide, and together the two of them piece together patterns and clues to try to find her father, before mysterious dark elements find them first.
First sentence: such a good hook!
So, earlier this year I loved the shit out of Marcus Sedgwick‘s Midwinterblood, so I was BEYOND excited when I heard about his new book, She Is Not Invisible (Roaring Brook Press). This book is so, SO different from that super trippy literary journey into darkness and eternal love, but it’s different in kind of an amazing way. This is a fun, thought provoking, well written mystery that is perfect for the middle school crowd. She is not Invisible is, if nothing else, a testament to Sedgwick’s versatility as a writer. Fortunately for me and for everyone who picks this book up, that’s not all it is, because it’s a damn good time and I read it in about half a day.
First of all, let’s talk about perspective. The narrative is told from Laureth’s point of view, and because Laureth is blind, she never uses any visual descriptors which makes for a fascinating reading experience that I can only imagine would be a challenge for a sighted writer to accomplish so seamlessly. Because the thing is, even though I was aware that there were no visual descriptors (I actually had heard this before I read the book), it isn’t noticeable. Any visual description of the setting or what is going on is filtered secondhand from one of the other characters, so that you experience the entire narrative in Laureth’s darkness. Sedgwick also does a pretty incredible job of addressing prejudice towards Laureth without it ever getting heavy-handed and impeding the forward momentum of this thriller. You feel rage at how fucking stupid the world is, and you cheer a little bit harder for how fucking unrelentingly brave and awesome Laureth is.
I loved the obsession with coincidence and fate that pervades the entire novel. This is the subject of her dad’s book that just can’t seem to get written, and as Laureth pieces together the mystery of her father’s disappearance the level of coincidence gets deeper and eerier until the darkness that is so characteristic of Sedgwick’s writing starts to insinuate itself into the entire narrative. This resurgence of fate as a major theme in the book is interesting considering it was also kind of the whole point of Midwinterblood, so methinks I sense a Sedgwick preoccupation. I hope? I could read his stories on the variations of fate and coincidence til the end of time.
If the ending seems a little tidy, I’m OK with that. Everything gets pretty hastily and satisfactorily wrapped up, but there is still a lingering question of darker mysteries lurking beneath the surface if you just dare to stir it up. I think the thing that, for me, made the ending so satisfying was that it delivered the message that, at the end of the day, we are in charge of our own stories, and at any point we can choose what we do in this life, whether that means taking a step back and letting something go, or continuing to doggedly pursue an elusive conclusion; we aren’t just victims of destiny. OR ARE WE?????
I couldn’t decide between two songs for this book, so whatever, I’ll do both! The first one is because I found it really interesting that, even though Laureth can’t “see” anyone, she is still the object of the male gaze throughout the novel. So I thought that Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Peek-a-Boo” would work for that one.
Secondly, obsession figures pretty prominently throughout, so here’s a nice little number by The Mountain Goats and Kaki King called “Mosquito Repellent.”
Where I got it: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.