Authors: David Levithan & Andrea Cremer
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 358 (ARC)
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.
I have way too much to say about this book. I don't even know where to begin. So, obviously, I believe I'll start at the beginning. Told in alternate point of views, this book was just really bland. The beginning did not drag me in and the only reason I continued is because several people who generally share the same bookish opinions as me enjoyed it. I wanted to keep reading to see if I could see what they say. Long story short, I did not.
I was excited to pick this book up because I've never read anything by David Levithan or Andrea Cremer before. I've heard great things about both and knew the general schematics of their writing style, so I was pretty sure what to expect going into this. A mere chapter in it became incredibly obvious to me that Stephen's chapters were written by Levithan while Cremer wrote Elizabeth's chapters. This was obvious because Stephen's chapters seemed to be used as a way to seem inspirational, deep, and passionate. He's invisible, so Levithan can tackle the concept of "being." However, instead of coming off as deep to me it came off as an obvious attempt to try to invoke emotions and thoughts in me that just wasn't successful. I found this to happen several times throughout the story in his chapters specifically, but I must admit that there was a certain chapter where Elizabeth's gay younger brother, Laurie, and Stephen contemplate human nature and the concept of suicide that I found to be passionate. One's gay and the other is invisible, human nature was not too kind to them in their pasts, so this was incredibly believable and the fact that both characters were taken to such lows in their life was heartbreaking. I also want to mention that they're writing styles differentiated greatly and I felt that this disrupted the flow of the story.
I had immense trouble connecting to the characters. It's been a really long time since I've come across this issue--this is my first negative review in over a month--but this issue was repetitive for me. Laurie, Stephen, Elizabeth--I just couldn't connect. I could feel for their cause and that was it. I didn't connect with Stephen because of my issues with Levithan's writing style stated above. I had trouble connecting to Elizabeth because I simply found her to be bland. Her sense of humor and thought processes simply did not entertain me or draw me in. Her sarcasm didn't seem realistic to me. She had no substance. Here is an excerpt from page 33 of my ARC to demonstrate what I mean:It was just bland to me. I couldn't deal with it. And then there's Laurie. Perhaps I enjoyed him most of all because he was the most eccentric. He's Elizabeth's gay little brother and their entire move to New York City was caused by the fact that some homophobic athletes at his old school beat him to within an inch of his life because of sexuality. I thought that Levithan and Cremer could have easily used this opportunity to get criticize homophobia in their literature and make a case for the hardships that homosexuals have to endure bullying-wise (which they did in the excerpt I mentioned in the second paragraph of the review) but instead they used this plot point as a way to sort of look for humor. This bothered me immensely because, literally, it felt like every time Laurie came up it was mentioned that he was gay. Even he would point out that he was gay. While this lessened significant for the second half of the book, I swear there was a mention of it in every chapter of the first one, or at least it seems that way. And the attempted humor due to his sexuality fell completely flat for me because I got sick of constantly being told that he was gay. Here is an excerpt taken from page 111 of my ARC where Laurie jokes about his sexuality:
The apartment is neat, if sparsely furnished. What's the word? Utilitarian. Hooray--vocab.
News flash," he says. "I'm gay, not a witch. Gay and witch is Dumbledore, and last time I checked, he was still just a guy in a book."
I easily inferred it from the first chapter, than I was told, then Stephen was told, then I was told a million more times throughout the writing. I understand how some may find the above quote funny, but I found it to exhaust a plot line that could have been really interesting otherwise.
Unfortunately, I must also report that this novel fell prey to the cliche curse of insta-love. Less than 80 pages into the story Stephen and Elizabeth kissed and felt like they belonged together. I was ready to DNF right there if my friends didn't convince me to continue.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this novel was the transition from the contemporary world to the paranormal world. It seemed as if one just crashed into the other. I understand that the "contemporary" world in this one isn't really that because Stephen is invisible so there's clearly some kind of paranormal business going on, but when he decides to find out why he is the way he is--BAM!--we were just thrown into the secret magic world. I felt as if the transition could have been way smoother. It doesn't help when words like hexvoyant suddenly began to get thrown around. Couple that with hexology and hexatorium and I was snorting at Levithan and Cremer's attempt at a unique magic world. Though their magical lore was admittedly fascinating when it came to the concept of curecasters and spellseekers. Curecasters are evil individuals who curse others and spellseekers are individuals who see the curses and can try to help others stop them. However, when an individual who is just learning about spellseeking suddenly manifests the ability to spellseek in the middle of the conversation, you know something's up. The transition was lacking in all senses.
SPOILER ALERT IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I initially thought that the magical lore and the malicious villain was enough to redeem this novel somewhat. It was going to earn at least 2.5 stars from me for a while because once I learned about the magic world it was an easier read. And when I learned about Stephen's evil grandfather, perhaps the most evil and powerful curecaster ever, I was convinced that I found an arguably vile villain. He could walk down the street invisible to all and make people start ripping their eyes out, their own hair out, set their clothes on fire, kill their animals, only by having to look at them and casting a quick spell by murmuring something under his breath. In the novel his antics were referred to as biochemical warfare and it was scary. This is one evil villain I would never want to tango with. But the few redeeming qualities I found upon meeting Arbus and adjusting to the new paranormal world introduced to me were dashed away with the ending of the novel. While Laurie, Elizabeth, and Stephen were victorious in the vanquishing evil ideology, they were not victorious in the quest that they set out to do in the very beginning of the novel. I almost felt like the entire novel was a waste because of this. Normally I applaud stand-alones because I don't always think series are necessary, but I think this one needs to continue because the ending just infuriated me. I read an entire book hoping for one thing to happen and the complete opposite did. It's slightly disappointing to the reader.
All in all, I'd say this book and I just weren't meant to be. I've noticed many positive reviews for it on Goodreads and around the blogosphere, but this is not a book for me. At all. I'm hoping that my future experiences with Levithan and Cremer do not leave me with similar sentiments.