I’ve been a fan of V.E. Schwab for so many years now, finding enjoyment in the books of hers that I’ve read, and I’d been incredibly excited for this newest release. But there was also worry because I’ve been so let down by authors whom I thought I loved and trusted and I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I ended up disliking this one. Thankfully we’ll never know because I am absolutely in love with The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It’s the kind of book that really digs into your heart, clawing at all the inner dregs of your soul that you either never knew were there or buried so deep that you refused to touch it ever again. It makes you feel and it makes you hurt, but it’s done in such a beautiful way that you don’t really seem to mind. It’s not absolutely perfect in my mind, but I can gladly give it 4.5 stars with no hesitation.
I’m not sure if I can write a good enough review to do this book justice so please bear with me.
What makes this book special, in my eyes, is that it’s not really one about the typical hero’s journey in a fantasy book. There isn’t really a fight between right and wrong, any type of high stakes climactic plot twist, or even a happy ever after where the prince gets the princess, if you will. But what it is, rather, is almost a love letter to stories itself. It’s a story about hundreds of stories of one girl’s 300 year life, but also simply the story of her single life. It’s a story about a boy who falls in love with a girl. It’s a story about a boy who wants to be everything for others yet nothing at all. It’s a story of being tempted and dancing with the devil, of how alluring the darkness can be. But mostly, it’s a story about life and how no one can or should dictate how you life it but yourself. And with the beauty of which Schwab writes you are pulled into all of these stories, finding wonder and hope and distress and sadness, but constantly falling deeper and deeper in love with the story along the way. Statistically, I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book, how it’s not quite plot driven nor wholly character driven, but I just knew what it was saying to me. I knew what I was feeling was what I was meant to. And that’s how I know it’s such a good story, in my eyes.
The two characters of Addie and Henry almost feel like two pieces of my soul, and that’s what really scared me when reading this. It was how Schwab was able to invoke such an emotional response out of me, how she got to my own character through exploring the minds of these two. Addie is a person who wanted nothing but to live her life by her own terms, but after her messy deal, all she wanted was to be remembered, to make an impact; ultimately, to matter. And with Henry, he simply wanted to be enough. To find the path he was supposed to be on, to find a way to be worthy in the eyes of others, to be someone that was loved and proud of. By putting Addie and Henry in each other’s path, they found what they were missing in each other. Addie found someone who would finally remember her, and would listen to her stories and find awe and wonder in them the way she had with all she discovered in the passing of time and years, and Henry found someone who really saw him as he was, not how they wanted to see him. These two characters represented two parts of my own soul, constantly putting myself on display and spotlighting my own insecurities, but by doing so they gave me a bit of hope. They showed me how simply you can make an impact on someone’s life, how easily you can plant a memorable thought, and how much you can matter with the right person. And I think that’s why this book is so memorable to me and how it matters that much more to me. Someone else might not see it that way and that’s ok; but I think that’s still the point of both the story and its characters. What might not matter to someone else can mean the world to you, no matter how small or simple.
I want to complain about the overall structure, because I am such a stickler for cohesive timelines and such, but even as I tried to complain and grumble over it I was still so entranced by the story, and the stories upon stories, and how in the end it all mattered whether I wanted to see it or not. In the end, it really felt like we were hearing Addie’s story through Henry, and going back over everything, all the stories interspersed throughout the novel, it made sense. And that’s how I can forgive it.
There was this concept in the book of how ideas are like seeds, how when they’re planted just right they can be turned into something so effective and magical and have an impact that you never could have predicted. Addie did that throughout her 300 years, becoming a muse to countless artists in various mediums, imparting wisdom on every day people that who might not remember her specifically, but they’ll remember her impact. And I think that’s the best takeaway and overall message from the book. You might think you need to be a bright shining star in someone’s life to be memorable, to matter, but it can be as simple as a throwaway sentence that hold the largest impact. It can be a quick idea of inspiration, the way your hair falls, the sound of your laugh, the colour of your eyes, anything mundane in your mind that can turn into a wonder of creation for someone else. And I think once you find that message, and really think about your life in that new lens, it can go from black-and-white to a subtle grey to a true technicolour of life. That’s why this book matters and is so utterly beautiful to me.
I’m going to be thinking about this book for a long, long time. But if you need me, I’ll just be over in the corner crying.
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.