Author: Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Genre: YA contemporary, PNR, Fantasy, magical realism
Publication Date: May 7, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a really great collab between two of my favorite authors that can’t be missed!
Review: Ever since “Every Day”, I’ve become a Levithan devotee. And I’ve been a Cremer devotee since “Nightshade”, so when I heard these two were writing a book together? I made a noise that wasn’t human. I was really anticipating it (seriously in my top ten for early 2013), and I’m so glad it pretty much lived up my expectations. While I can see this book may not be for everyone (the pacing is a bit slow, and the big reveals take time and patience to get to), it’s well worth the wait for me. Mixing magical realism with contemporary YA lit, “Invisibility” is a wonderful story of magic, and what it takes to really love someone.
While a little slow to start, there’s magic there from the very first page. And no, I don’t mean because Stephen’s invisible, but because of the fact that his world, the world shrunk down to his apartment, his New York City and how he interacts with it is so very well-built, and so very sturdy, that it automatically reminded me of the magic we immediately encounter in the opening passages of “Every Day”. Which is not a bad thing – this, I’ve discovered, is Levithan’s style when it comes to magical realism. And you know what? He’s really good at it. And when it comes to Cremer and the entrance of Elizabeth, she’s shown a surprising talent for what seems to be ordinary contemporary YA – but when certain things happen later, she calls upon her talent with paranormal/paranormal romance to really help bring the other half of this book to life. The division of labor here is obvious but extremely well done, and that’s what really struck me at first about the first few opening chapters, when Stephen and Elizabeth meet. Both authors use their talent for their characters and so it flows together really well because of it. It’s startlingly smooth even if slow at first, but once we start getting more revealed, things take off into a crazy ride that doesn’t stop until the end of the book.
Some have called insta-love when it comes to Stephen and Elizabeth’s relationship, but (for once), I’ve found the opposite. There’s a lot of inner worldbuilding for both characters (but Stephen’s inner world, naturally, is more built), and thus a lot of fighting with oneself about the other person. Cremer and Levithan make it clear from the get-go that this will not be an easy relationship, be it platonic or otherwise, and that everyone (including the audience) is going to have to work really hard for everything to work. I love that both Stephen and Elizabeth have to fight against themselves, against their past experiences, and against their possible future in order to be together in any sort of relationship medium, and when they finally do get together? Oh, is it worth it. But I also have to give it to Levithan and Cremer that once their relationship gets going, it doesn’t go full-bore screaming in the direction of immediate declarations of true love, which was a pleasant change for YA. It’s a slow realization, and one that scares the hell out of both of them, which I found realistic and relatible even though I’m definitely not a teenager anymore. (Romantic) love SHOULD be scary to anyone of any age, and I’m glad that’s the way the two authors played it.
I also loved Laurie as the comic relief. Considering what happens to him (or what’s just happened to him at the start of the book), the way he accepts Stephen (very cautiously) and what has happened to him, and yet still isn’t afraid of his new life was really a joy. We’ve couched nonheteronormative sexual identity in bullying, hate crime, and suicides for so long, I think that we as a collective contemp YA audience have forgotten how resilient these people, these characters can be, and how quickly they can bounce back even from such terrible experiences as the one that Laurie experienced. It was really a joy to read, and nothing less I’d expect from Levithan. As for Cremer, she did have a little gay action going on in the Nightshade series, but not fleshed out enough for me to really be able to honestly comment on how things worked. Now I can say that yes, she can be able to use gay characters not as sob stories, but as triumph stories, and as regular stories that happen everyday.
As for the big reveal of Elizabeth’s true nature and how it relates to Stephen’s curse, I can’t say I wasn’t entirely not expecting it, but I liked the way that played out nonetheless. Their love suddenly becomes this very fragile thing (and it wasn’t exactly made of titanium to begin with), and Laurie really becomes part of the main cast here, which was nice. I’m still feeling lukewarm about Millie at this point – mostly because her development and backstory isn’t really given to us until/near the climax of the book. Saul was nicely fleshed out as a minor character, and I generally loved how everyone was brought together with Stephen’s grandfather as the big bad, and how the entire climax and resolution went down. There isn’t a happy ending here – not your usual kind, at least – there’s magic, there’s ongoing relationship repair, and no big problems (like Stephen’s little invisibility problem) don’t just disappear thanks to TRUE LOVE(tm). And I thought that was the best way to handle things in terms of ending the book. That was the most satisfying for me because it was also the most realistic, magical realism and paranormal romance aside. We don’t always get happy endings, and sometimes, when we do, they’re not the ones that we’ve been promised since we’ve been children.
Finally, the sensory imagery: for Stephen it’s slow (obviously, because he has to try harder), but once the curses really get involved, the ones that Elizabeth try to wrestle are almost a little too intense to handle. To the point where I had to walk away, breathe, and process for awhile. Both of these authors are awesome at sensory imagery and language, so it was a little overpowering at times. But that’s definitely not a bad thing, and I really loved how they were able to combine their skills here.
Final verdict? If you can stick with a quiet, slow, insidious little book such as this until the action starts coming at you, I really suggest that you give this book a try. Even if you can’t, give it a try anyway – I think you’ll find that your patience will definitely pay off. “Invisibility” will be out from Penguin in North America on May 7, 2013, so DEFINITELY check it out when you get the chance. Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far, and I’m hoping these two authors team up together once more and bring us something just as awesome as this book.