When her father, a writer who has become obsessed with the idea of writing a novel about coincidence, vanishes from Austria, where he is supposed to be doing research, Laureth Peak is convinced that something has happened to him. Unable to convince her mother of the danger, she decides to follow up the only lead she has – her father’s notebook which has mysteriously appeared in New York – on her own. Stealing her mother’s credit card and ‘enlisting’ the help of her little brother Benjamin, Laureth sets out to solve the clues left in her father’s notebook. The obstacles facing any 16-year old girl alone in New York, though, are made all the more challenging by one single fact – Laureth Peak is blind.
I’ve heard a lot about Marcus Sedgwick over the years on various blogs and websites – an eclectic author who has written both literary and more genre works, I have always heard good things about his writing and the plots he develops. So when She Is Not Invisible appeared on a “Books-to-Watch-Out-For” post on a blog I frequent, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. And after reaching the end, I am glad I did. She Is Not Invisible is a wonderful, quirky, intriguing novel, which only just fails to reach perfection due to a sloppy execution of the conclusion.
The first and key thing that works in She Is Not Invisible is Laureth, our narrator. Laureth is our guide through the novel, especially since the whole thing is told through her eyes. As such she is an intriguing and completely original narrator, one who manages to portray an entire world despite the fact that she is blind. Although her blindness is an obvious and ever-present factor, it is not allowed to become her only defining characteristic: Laureth is a quirky, strong, uncertain and slightly unhinged character who carries us along with us through the strength of her personality and the power of her convictions.
The strength of her character makes up for what could have been some major problems with the beginning of the novel, which probably means that your own reaction to the book will be dependent on how you react to Laureth. Considering that she is able – as a blind sixteen-year old girl on her own with a seven-year old brother she has basically kidnapped – to con her way onto an airplane and travel all the way to New York, where she is then able to carry on an investigation that constantly forces her to interact with people who may or may not realise she has a disability... Well, if you allow yourself to be dragged in by Laureth’s voice, the chances are that the various parts of the plot that require a certain suspension of belief will work as well for you as they did for me. Otherwise, your mileage may definitely vary!
Those elements aside, She Is Not Invisible provides us with an intriguing and tense mystery, one that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout while I was reading it. As Laureth puts together the elements of the puzzle left behind in her father’s notebook, we start to get a hint of dark forces at work, all centred around her father’s new obesssion – coincidence. Through these sections, Segdwick takes us on a journey through philosophy and physics, using such historical figures as Einstein and Edgar Allan Poe to explore the mysteries surrounding coincidence. Thanks to some well placed diversions into Laureth’s father’s notes, we gain an insight into a field of which I knew little, but which definitely left me intrigued to learn more.
This mystery, unfortunately, is let down by a clumsy conclusion that seems to be unsure as to what it is trying to do. While it wraps up the mystery of her father’s disappearance and brings Laureth full circle with her family, it also seems to wipe away everything that has happened up until now and relegates everything that Laureth and her brother have achieved to an almost farcical trip down a rabbit hole. Her father’s sudden change of heart as to coincidence and the banal explanation of what happened to him are disappointing, and it is difficult to see where Sedgwick is trying to go with his novel by the last few pages.
This does nothing to take away from the journey up until then. Sedgwick creates some great characters besides Laureth – her brother Benjamin and the extremely quirky Mr. Walker especially stand out. As in many YA novels, the adults are either a hindrence or non-existence – Laureth’s parents do not come off particularly well at any point in the story, though they do get their happy ending in the conclusion. A handful of other elements stood out – I really enjoyed the recurring joke about the father’s earlier ‘funny’ books, and the constant reference to the number 354 and the lengths Laureth takes that too through the book were excellent.
All in all, She Is Not Invisible is an accomplished YA mystery with an engaging and original narrator. While building up an extremely interesting philosophical puzzle, the novel is let down by a confusing and clumsy conclusion that does not live up to the expectations of the earlier plot. Requiring a certain amount of suspension of belief at times, it is nevertheless a taut, well-told story that kept me on the edge of my feat. I will definitely be picking up the next book Mr Sedgwick releases.
I gave She Is Not Invisible 4 electricity-cancelling brothers out of 5.