Review: Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan

Invisibility - Andrea Cremer, David Levithan

Initial reaction: Dude - I actually really enjoyed this and it was probably helped by a decent audio narration. I wasn't thrilled about Elizabeth's POV in turns and the overarching "instalove", but it was the secondary characters, Stephen's POV and narrative voice, and the intrigue of the cursecasting and light/dark undertones of the narrative that won me over.

Full review:

For all intents and purposes, I'm really surprised that I ended up really liking this book a whole heck of a lot. I will concede the fact that it has issues, I will concede that there are parts of it that lean heavily in the mix of genre cliches and that typically those cliches can be enough of a turnoff. Yet "Invisibility" had me when it was all said and done, and that's thanks to a number of different measures.

Part of it was the stellar audiobook narration done by McLeod Andrews and Mandy Siegfried. Both of them have narrated works I've thoroughly enjoyed on audiobook before, and they were a perfect fit for the characters and flow of the narrative. I understood that there were issues differentiating the characters in the print version of this book, but I had no such trouble with the audio. Both Andrews and Siegfried gave their characters punch and distinction to where I knew they were distinct and - for the characters - the motivations and experiences were uniquely drawn.

To say a bit about the authors themselves - I've had more experience with David Levithan's works than Andrea Cremer. Levithan has a style that pops off the page - contemplative, darkly humored (and sometimes just dark), speculative, emotional - not afraid to delve into realism mixed with an intriguing dose of "what-ifs". He's an author I respect quite a bit and I loved his contributions in "Every Day," "Will Grayson, Will Grayson", among other narratives. Andrea Cremer, I'm not as familiar with, but I can tell her style is more lighthearted, more in the vein of paranormal, supernatural, humored and romantic leanings. I haven't really been motivated to read the Nightshade series because I read the erotic adult spinoff of that series and...wasn't impressed. But I was willing to give this book a try to see how their styles meshed.

The result was one with a mixed bag of presentations, but one I ultimately enjoyed for the journey. Part of the story revolves around Stephen, a boy who has spent his whole life invisible. His mother and father could sense his essence, but even they couldn't see him after he was born. So he's grown up in NYC with no friends, no sense of a normal life and a lonely existence. His clothes disappear as soon as he puts them on. He can take showers, sleep, eat, do all the things a boy his age can do, though no one can see him and when he tries to do things that make his presence known - it ends up creeping people out, almost like a living ghost. His mother raised him the best she could before she died, and Stephen's dad was only loosely in the picture, giving Stephen a reason to be bitter and their relationship feeling the strain.

Then enters Elizabeth to change everything Stephen knows - the only girl that can see him.

Granted, Elizabeth many times was one of the reasons this work irked me. She's impulsive, thoughtless, brash, and some of the things she says just aren't funny. Some are, but I kept feeling second hand embarrassment just hearing her narrative voice and her callousness to certain situations. There was a part of me that understood this was a character flaw of hers, but other times it was just...too much.

Stephen and Elizabeth's reactions and interactions are at times fun to watch, but I'll admit the all encompassing instalove bothered me. I thought it was too much, too fast. I could buy it to a certain extent because of Stephen's heavy existence and the fact that his condition would make it hard for him to love anybody, let alone his time in the world being limited by something he couldn't begin to understand at first, his essence being eaten away, reportedly. But for Elizabeth, it was a little harder to buy because she wasn't a big part of the conflict at first, especially since you weren't aware of WHY she could see Stephen. The way she treats Stephen sometimes is pretty brash in points, but it's still palpable as to her motivations (even if I didn't like it). Ultimately, I wasn't reading this *just* for the romance. I was more intrigued by the measure of why Stephen was invisible and why Elizabeth was the only one who could see him. I knew it had to have had a supernatural leaning (matter in point, I could see this as an episode of the TV series Supernatural - it had that kind of vibe to it in places), especially as the narrative ceded to discussing the curse casting and the role of Stephen's grandfather placing a curse on him to punish his mother. The backstory behind that is rather sad and I felt for the poor kid as those details came to light. The lore in this is intriguing, and the curses are pretty darned creepy (yet really intriguing to witness). Elizabeth's role comes to light progressively as well, and it's reasonable considering it factors into her seeing him and ultimately trying to find ways to help Stephen in the course of the narrative.

I really liked Elizabeth's brother Laurie far more than Elizabeth herself, because he served as a vibrant character with his own motivations (his crush on the boy living upstairs was adorable) and he provided good comic relief and character support through the events of the novel. As well, I grew to like Stephen's father as he became more of a part of the story and the distance in their relationship was expounded upon. The scenes between him and Stephen were necessary in furthering along the conflict of the story and I think it was well noted. Millie, her bodyguard, and even some of the other secondary cast members were those I enjoyed watching as well - learning their parts of the story and ultimately in the overarching quest and conflict as they attempt to help Stephen not only understand his curse, but make headway to lift it.

Stephen's character, to me, felt like he had more narrative weight than Elizabeth and ultimately - that was why he connected with me better. He made "Invisibility" for me, and Levithan (whom I'm presuming mostly had writing duties in his viewpoint, if not completely) did a remarkable job of expressing his futility, loss, determination, among other fluxes in his emotions regarding his particular condition. Elizabeth only really grew on me as she had more of a direct role/stake in the narrative, with her respective abilities and discovering long uncovered secrets about herself - but even then - they only scratched the surface, and I think that was a flaw of Cremer's narration. Sometimes she flowed with it, othertimes it felt like she pulled back and didn't dig enough to where the character perspective could be less "quirky" and more intimate/serious. There were moments where her world was rocked though, and it was only through the latter part of the narrative where that really had a chance to have significance.

OMG, some of the scenes in this book gave me chills. While I somewhat wished that Stephen's grandfather had more significant motivations and development in his character, I loved the tension his role in this book provided. His curses were downright malicious and creepy. From the time Stephen first has the chance to witness his grandfather's power, you can tell he's a formidable presence. There was one scene where Stephen and his grandfather are alone and neither one of them could see the other - but it was INTENSE. I really felt Stephen's fear and anticipation, and while I could've smacked Elizabeth and the others for leaving him to bat for not realizing the obvious, it was a wonderful scene of tension, and a great lead in to what would be the final showdown for the characters.

I'm also glad that this didn't go for the obvious ending, though it makes me sad because while this book somewhat left events that would serve well for a sequel, it doesn't seem to have come to fruition yet. I know I would read a sequel to this if it ever came to be, because it had me for what it established. I love speculative fiction, magical realism, and things of the paranormal/supernatural sort with magic, so this book worked for me for the worldbuilding, premise and ultimate development for what it showed, though I'll admit it could've been improved upon. It took some suspension of disbelief, but ultimately - it really worked for me. I enjoyed it. I'd definitely urge people who really like Levithan's speculative style to give this a try, particularly in the audio form since it was such a strong representation, and maybe Cremer for her paranormal/supernatural slant with humored anecdotes. Cremer's role wasn't bad for contribution, but it was much more rough and I could tell places where her writing and voice differed from Levithan's and made the text a bit more cumbersome than it should've been (especially for Elizabeth's recklessness). Ultimately, this is a title that may be hit or miss, but it was worth trying, and I'm sad I didn't pick it up sooner than now.

Overall score: 4/5 stars