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Guest Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

by V.E. Schwab
October 6, 2020 · Tor Books
Science Fiction/Fantasy

This Guest Review is from Rachel C. Thomas. “I’m a freelance writer who lives in Western New York with my husband and a sassy rescue dog named Mieko. I was introduced to the library at a young age and it’s been my happy place ever since. My four favorite books are Dracula, The Haunting of Hill House, The Exorcist, and Interview with the Vampire, which should tell you everything you need to know about my reading tastes. I also enjoy a good romance or fantasy novel. If I’m not reading, I can be found knitting, sewing, or reorganizing my TBR pile. Pronouns: she/her

I started reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue with some skepticism that I would even finish it on the first try. I had to try the A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy at least three times before I realized that I loved it. It didn’t help that the rest of the book community seemed to love it. Whether it’s books or food, that’s never been an indicator that I’ll like anything. The premise intrigued me, though, and before I knew it, I was speeding through the book.

Main character Addie is 300 years old, having made a deal with a god named Luc to escape her small French town and an unwanted marriage. The price for her immortality is that she is forgotten by everyone she meets. In 2014 New York City, Addie meets Henry, a bookstore employee who, miraculously, is able to remember her. As they embark on a relationship, Addie finds that Henry has a secret of his own. This is made all the more complicated by Addie’s on and off relationship with Luc.

This is a gem of a book. There’s an alchemy here that works on the most satisfying level possible. The prose is beautiful and descriptive, bordering on the poetic in some parts, and while A Darker Shade of Magic was all about the world building, Addie LaRue is all about the character building.

For example, while the characters in Addie LaRue are past the point of a traditional coming of age story, the narration captures the uncertainty and regret that can hit a person in their twenties and thirties:

Choosing a class became choosing a discipline, and choosing a discipline became choosing a career, and choosing a career became choosing a life, and how was anyone supposed to do that, when you only had one?

Addie and Henry are fully realized, human, intelligent, and flawed in a way that makes the reader want to know them and, in some cases, be them. It might be a fantasy tale, but these are choices that we all might make if faced with the circumstances that Addie and Henry find themselves in.

One thing I loved about this book is its casual queerness. Addie and Henry have both had male and female partners and this is not presented as A Big Deal. There is something undeniably beautiful about reading something beyond a coming out narrative. While those stories are important, valuable, and unquestionably necessary, it is deeply special to witness queer characters simply exist in the world with no preamble and no explanation.

Also of note is the skillful handling of Henry’s depression and high sensitivity. As someone who has struggled with mental health issues my entire adult life, the description of depression was highly resonant:

One day the skies were blue and the next the clouds were low and dense, and the next, the wind was up and it was pouring rain.

The interplay between art, memory, life, death, and regret is at the core of this book, and the tender romance between Addie and Henry is as relatable as it is heartbreakingly beautiful. I have had at least one thing in my life that is so unbelievably good that I am afraid to lose it, so the urgency and sweetness of their relationship touched me deeply. It brought to mind my relationship with my husband and caused me to tear up at more than a few points. They are the kinds of characters I would happily follow for another ten books.

I’m always hesitant as I get towards the end of a book I’ve really loved. Endings are sometimes harder to endure when the bulk of the book has been so beautiful. Fortunately, for me, the conclusion is mature and complex, and worthy of the story overall.

What makes this release stand out from all the other books I’ve read recently is that it is beautifully woven together. The poetic beauty of the writing, the complex questions at the heart of the narrative, and the touching romance between Henry and Addie all balance out wonderfully in a way that left me feeling satisfied and with a sense of completion. If there’s any follow-up to Addie LaRue, it will be an automatic pre-order for me, but, either way, I know that I’ll be thinking about this story, these characters, and what they mean to me for a long time.

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