Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Leviathan

InvisibilityInformation

Goodreads: Invisibility
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: May 7, 2013

Official Summary

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.

Review

Never having read anything by Andrea Cremer or David Levithan, I opened Invisibility with no expectations.  Although contemporary romance is not my preferred genre, I was intrigued by the element of fantasy; I wanted to see how one boy’s invisibility was incorporated into his otherwise average life in Manhattan.  Basically, I thought Invisibility might bear similarities to magical realism, which would be unique for YA fiction.  The first half of the novel does not disappoint, but the second half turns into a full-out quest across Manhattan for a dangerous cursecaster—which never entirely matches the tone of the beginning of the book and which never seems as urgent or interesting to the outside audience as the characters find it to be.  While Invisibility experiments playfully with mixing genres, it fails to mix them into coherency, and the result is a disorienting novel with a few shining moments of potential.

As noted, Invisibility seems unable to decide whether it is primarily a romance, a fantasy, or a story of character growth (or primarily the character growth of Stephen, Elizabeth, or Elizabeth’s brother Laurie, who gets his own complicated plotline as a boy recovering from being bullied for his homosexuality).  However, since much of the plotline stems from Stephen’s and Elizabeth’s relationship, it seems fitting to begin there.  Unfortunately, there is rather boring.  Stephen and Elizabeth suffer from an extreme case of instalove, forming a romantic attachment at only their third meeting (and their first meeting was a five minute chat in their apartment hallway).  Beyond the fact that Elizabeth is the only person who can see Stephen, and one of the few who even know he exists, it is difficult to tell what their relationship is based on.  Perhaps their mutual loneliness?  Either way, the two seem stuck together more for plot reasons than because they are somehow innately suited for each other.  I had little personal interest in what they did or whether they survived as a couple.

Elizabeth’s relationship with Laurie is vastly more complex, as the two argue and tease like real siblings but also feel mutually protective of each other.  Elizabeth worries whether Laurie’s homosexuality will be accepted in a new city.  Laurie worries about Elizabeth’s new mysterious boyfriend and whether he is treating her right.  Both worry about each other as the fantasy aspect of the plot picks up and they become embroiled in the dangerous world of cursecasters.  Even with their dynamic aside, Laurie is easily the most compelling character of the novel, approaching every situation with a good humor, a wise heart, and the steadfastness to take any action necessary for the protection of his friends.  In contrast, Elizabeth spends most of her time becoming irrationally angry, yelling at people, and ignoring sound advice.  It is difficult to wish her success on any personal level; mostly I wanted her to win the battle of wills against the cursecaster because she was on the “good” side.

Yet the war between good and evil does not seem as dire as Elizabeth & Co. believe.  [SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH] On one hand, the magic in Invisibility is not well-developed enough to seem believable.  Basically, there are a handful of “cursecasters” who curse a disproportionate amount of the population—who are completely unsuspecting, besides the even smaller handful of “spellseekers” who can see the curses but not do much to stop them.  This all seems so unjust and so unbalanced.  And it begs the question of why it even matters that this world of magic exists beneath our unsuspecting noses.  “Cursecasters” curse people and they suffer but have no idea they are cursed, so they carry on with their daily lives.  How…dull.

The other “big reveals” of the novel are similarly disappointing.  In the beginning of THE story the readers learn that Stephen’s mother will not give him any details about how he became invisible.  She says that telling him will grossly endanger him.  When Stephen finally does learn, he is “broken.”  From a reader’s perspective, he is really overreacting because it is not that big of a deal and the knowledge alone does not put him into peril.  Only the actions he takes with the knowledge can do that.

Invisibility has high points: the fantastic character development of Laurie, the boldness of imagining what it would be like to live literally invisibility, the astute descriptions of life in New York City.  In between these points, however, is a lot of slow and underdeveloped plot.  A romantic fantasy set in the City That Never Sleeps should have too much going on to be boring.

2 thoughts on “Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Leviathan

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