almost screamed in excitement when I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
I’ve been a fan of V. E. Schwab for a while now, so I had a feeling I would like this upcoming adult standalone. However, I had no idea I would finish this book feeling like I had sold my soul to it with no regrets.
In 1714, Addie LaRue, desperate to avoid a marriage she does not want, makes a deal with a mysterious creature (a spirit? a god? a devil? You decide…) to live forever. However, there is a catch—from that night on, anyone she interacts with forgets her the moment she leaves their presence. Addie travels, and learns, and experiences, but she must always be alone. Until one day, she returns to an old bookstore, and the boy at the counter remembers her.
This story is captivating. We see Addie’s time in the modern day, alternated with scenes of her journey through history, each timeline informing and illuminating the other. I loved watching her discover new things and grow as a person, fighting to make a mark on the world in spite of her unconventional nature. You really root for her, aching when she goes through hardships and celebrating when she triumphs.
The other characters are also fantastic. I adore Henry, who is so sweet yet pained, loving yet lost. The scenes from his point of view are excellent; this story is as much his as it is Addie’s. Meanwhile, Luc is fascinating and powerful. Without giving too much away, he’s one of the most iconic figures in this novel. People are going to latch on to him—I can almost see the fanart now (and I’m so ready for it).
The other characters that populate this book—from Estele and Remy, Thomas and Sam, Bea and Robbie—also feel real and well-written. Even the ones who only feature in a chapter or two end up feeling familiar, as if you are living Addie’s life right along with her.
And ultimately, this is not only a book about Addie’s life, but about life in general. It is about living rather than surviving, experiencing rather than simply being. Addie seeks to chart her own way, but through her we see the effect other people have on us. We all impact each other’s lives, sometimes in major ways but sometimes in ways that are, like Addie, nearly invisible yet still substantial. Furthermore, this is a book about finding the positive even in troubling situations, and that happiness is always worth the suffering that exists in the world.
In the end, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is incredible. Schwab’s writing is smooth and lyrical without being burdened by overly flowery language; rather her words elevate until the reader is enraptured. The characters are vivid, relatable, and fully realized. The historical settings are well-researched and alive. And the message of seeking, in Schwab’s own words, “a defiant kind of joy” is powerful, moving, and beautiful. I cannot wait for this book to be published (it’ll be out October 6, 2020) so that you can all read it!
On that note, in the present situation of self-isolating, I hope everyone is taking care of themselves. Reach out to friends and family, support each other, and don’t forget to look for positive things, like Addie would. Also, if you can, help independent businesses in your community—especially bookstores!
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Content warning: A character with anxiety and depression struggles with suicidal ideation at one point. This is treated with sensitivity, but if this could affect you negatively, please take care.