Friday, June 21, 2013
Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer
Invisibility is only a superpower if you can turn it on and off at will. Otherwise, it's not such a blessing. Stephen has been invisible from birth, although he doesn't know why. His parents know, but they won't tell him. He lives alone since his mother has recently died and his father has left to live a more normal life and start a new family (luckily for Stephen, his father still pays for his apartment and living expenses). He's used to living on the fringes of life, not going to school, not having friends, having to dodge people on the street if he goes for a walk. Then one day, while he is in his apartment hallway, the grocery bag of his new neighbor breaks, and groceries spill out all over the floor. As she's scrambling to pick things up, she looks up and snaps "Are you really going to just stand there? Is this fun for you?". And so an utterly stunned Stephen meets Elizabeth, the only person on earth who can see him.
Invisibility is a story of magic and romance set in New York by one of my favorite teen authors (Levithan) and Andrea Cremer, bestselling author of the Nightshade series. Levithan must be great to work with, since this is the fourth novel he's co-written (two novels with Rachel Cohn and one with John Green). There's a very cute picture of David and Andrea cozying up to each other on the back flap.
This was such a fun read, but it tugged at my heart a little as well. Levithan can do that. I was sucked in by Stephen's description of the ephemeral nature of his one childhood friendship:
"And then there was Ben, who moved away. Ben, the only friend I've almost had. When he was five and I was ten, he decided to have an imaginary friend. Stuart, he named him, and that was close enough to my name, Stephen, for me to play along. He'd invite me to dinner, and I'd come along. He'd move to hold my hand in the park, and I'd take it. He'd bring me to kindergarten for show-and-tell, and I would stand there as the teacher indulged his whim, nodding along to whatever Ben said about me. The one thing I couldn't do was speak to him, because I knew that hearing my voice would spoil the illusion. Once, when I knew he wasn't listening, I whispered his name. Just to hear it. But he didn't notice. And by the time he turned six, he'd outgrown me. I couldn't blame him. Still, I was sad when he moved away."
It turns out that Stephen is invisible because his grandfather is a curse-caster, and he cursed his daughter when she left him to go to college. Nice, right? Elizabeth can see him because she was born with the rare ability to see curses. You'd think the fact that Elizabeth and her brother Laurie are the only people in Stephen's life --except for the escaped father--would make the Stephen and Elizabeth romance a bit claustrophobic, but somehow it doesn't. Perhaps it's because Elizabeth isn't yet entangled with school and other friends (she's new in town, and it's summer). It's sweet how Stephen and Elizabeth fall for each other and what that means to them both. We feel that Stephen isn't the only one who's being seen for the first time. I also like Elizabeth's close relationship with her ally and kid brother, Laurie. It's refreshing to see such a positive, I've-got-your-back sibling relationship.
One thing I did notice is that Stephen's voice is pretty much exactly the same as the voice of A, the protagonist of Levithan's previous book Every Day. That's not really a complaint, just an observation.
Here's a trailer from Penguin Books: