Friday, 25 October 2013

Reviewed by Arianne: Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan.

Product details:
Publisher: Penguin.
Paperback, 358 pages.
Release date: May 7th 2013.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 12+
 Reviewed by: Arianne.

Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth.

Invisibility is a difficult one to rate. I really wanted to adore it – there’s a lot of love for it floating around book blogs these days – but I just couldn’t quite force myself to enjoy a story which fell flat in so many critical places.
This book is told from two different viewpoints. Stephen was born invisible - the result of a horrific curse cast by his grandfather before Stephen was even born. New girl Elizabeth secretly feels invisible - but her sharp Minnesota tongue soon makes short work of that when she arrives in NYC.  One person the multiple narrative fails to feature is Elizabeth's younger brother, Laurie - though I really wish it had. He feels like the most visible person on the planet, especially when the bullies come for him.

But when Elizabeth and Stephen begin to fall in love, a whole new dimension opens up for them - literally. Thrust into a world bound by magic and by tradition, an epic battle overtakes all the other problems they thought they had. With Stephen’s grandfather back in town and cursecasters on the warpath, it's time to take action - or they'll lose their lives as well as their love.
Reading Invisibility is kind of a package deal. You have to put up with the hype and the huge reputations of the authors, and you have to suspend your disbelief long enough for the cool contemporary meets paranormal romance concept to work. Realism isn’t this book’s strong point and you have to accept that from the word go. It’s such an obvious issue, in fact, that the opening moments of Stephen’s no-nonsense narrative address it directly.

Once you get past those first few world-building, backstory-telling pages, the book is very much a thematic tale. Equal parts action and anguish, there is an all-round emphasis on where the characters have come from and where they might be going. 

And of course, Levithan and Cremer have taken real care to bulk up the story with countless moral and intrapersonal questions. The answers are never too far away, but you’ll have to look past the immediate surface to find the ones that matter.

The mythology behind Stephen’s supernatural ability is the main plot motivator and I really like the way the book is built around it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I loved that – it was one of the best executed elements of the book. 

Unfortunately the New York setting still feels cliché and overused even when the unique concepts of cursecasters and spellseekers are taken into account. NYC feels like such a default location in the American young adult scene and I just wanted something more. The two worlds are so different they should mesh together easily in the hands of these two very capable authors, but they don’t. 

In contrast, I love the differences between Stephen and Elizabeth's voices. Stephen is written in typical David Levithan style. He's straightforward, matter-of-fact and devoid of flashiness – it’s Elizabeth who is more of a surprise. (I refuse to call her Jo. As a nickname, it just doesn't make sense!) She'll never back down from a fight, but she's also brash and frequently alienates herself from the reader, making her hard to consistently like.

Stephen and Elizabeth fall in love with little fire or passion, but it's still preferable to the reasonless romance featured in Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series. Up to this point both perspectives seem a little detached from one another but the power of dual authorship is perhaps most apparent here. Instead of tumbling down the rabbit hole of instantaneous and undying love, Stephen and Elizabeth are honest and just want to be there for each other. It would have been really cute, if only they could have lightened up and had some fun together.

Laurie is the saving grace of the cast. He's Elizabeth's brother, but there's a clear Levithan influence on him. He's funny, sweet and in truth, he’s the real hero of the book. His belief in Stephen never wavers and he shows extraordinary courage in the face of violence and hatred.
Laurie's a big part of the reason why I'm really hoping for a sequel, despite my reservations about Elizabeth. It may have its flaws, but Invisibility has a whole lot of potential packed behind its innocent cover.
In short: Simply put, Invisibility could do with some more energy and spark in its narrative. I didn't love it, but in the hands of the right reader, this contemporary-with-a-difference has the potential to become a real favourite. 



  1. This does sound like a great read Arianne, but I probably would rate this book of a similar rating to you because of the issues you mentioned, I like my characters to have a bit of fun too. And I can't stop laughing at Elizabeth's nickname, Jo? Where did that come from? Lovely review as always Arianne! :)

  2. Pretty much all the reviews I've read have said the same thing. Good but had a few issues. I think I'm going read Two Boys Kissing instead.

  3. I always think books like this are hard to rate - and I'm glad to find out I'm not the only one! It's been a while since I read Invisibility (no re-reads for this one from me, I'm afraid) but I think it comes from her liking the book Little Women.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the review, Karen. Do let us know what you think of Two Boys Kissing!

  5. I have a copy of this but I put it aside when I started seeing the less than glowing reviews. I love the idea of this story, but I don't always care for Levithan's characters. But it sounds like Cremer's was the issue here. Hard to like a book when the heroine is hit and miss for you. Wonderful review, Leanna. I think this will sit on the shelf a little longer. :)

  6. Ooops, sorry, I didn't see that it was Arianne who reviewed this! Wonderful review, Arianne!

  7. ChristinaBookAddict26 October 2013 at 01:37

    Great review, Arianne. I felt the same way about Invisibility! I was hoping for a much more compelling read given that Andrea Cremer and David Levithan wrote it, but ultimately, it felt rather "meh" for me. I'm glad I am not alone in that. The best part of the book was Laurie--loved that character too!

  8. I can't say I blame you for holding off on reading this one, Rachel! It's difficult not to be disappointed when such a fantastic concept is let down by other parts of the book. Maybe one day it will will find a reader who completely adores it, but sadly I'm not that person!

  9. Thanks, Rachel :)

  10. I thought exactly the same thing, Christina. It was just so 'meh' and 'average' compared to the other books I was reading at the time. It could have been so much better. I expected more from Andrea Cremer and David Levithan, to be perfectly honest.


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