The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V. E. Schwab

Before we start this, I’m not one to care for spoilers. On the contrary, I try to gather as much info as I can before jumping into something, be it a book, a movie, a project or life in general –yes, I am a real control freak, I know–, so I don’t mind reading pieces of plot here and there in a review. Anyway, since I realize many people don’t like knowing in advance what happens, I try to hide spoilers as much as I can. Today, as the title suggest, I’m writing about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, written by V.E. Schwab. As always, spoilers will be hidden behind a wall of white text.

Adeline LaRue is born in a small village in France at the end of the seventeenth century, where she grows up feeling that she’s meant for more than living, dying and being buried in the same place. She wants to be free, to be her own person. So when her family starts talking about marriage, she is scared and starts praying to the old gods. She is warned: no matter how desperate or dire, she must never pray to the gods that answer after dark. She does it anyway, and this is how her real story begins.

So, this book is practically perfect. Every word has a purpose, every sentence moves the story forward. Every description, every character is a little piece of the puzzle, and all together they make a nostalgic, bittersweet story. Nothing is left to chance, nothing is redundant or useless. Addie’s journey, one that I’m sure will one day be considered a masterpiece of our times, is made of precisely all the elements present in the story. Like a fine whisky, you’re supposed to sip it, let it roll in your mouth and appreciate all the different layers, the different udnertones. The taste it leaves once it is gone. Most importantly, exactly like a fine whisky, try to drink it all in one go and you’ll ruin the whole experience, which is what happened to me.

Well, in case of whisky, drink the whole bottle and you’ll end up in a hospital, but that’s not the point.

If I have to be honest, my reactions to this book have been a little ambivalent. In the two days it took me to read it, I got curious, bored, sad, bored again, then I cried a lot and ultimately I was disappointed. I’ve been trying to let this awful feeling slide away before writing this review, but I tend to hold grudges, so…

Truth be told, after the first twenty or so pages I grew invested in Addie, even though this is not what I would call my book of choice. It is in third person, and I’d much rather read in first; it has multiple POVs, and I’m into reading stuff as subjective as it gets –on that note, I ADORE unreliable narrators. More of those, please?–. Furthermore, my favorite kinds of stories are the ones that you feel compelled to start and finish quickly, so full of emotion and drama that you just need to know what happens next and can’t seem to be able to put the damn thing down. This is simply not it.

To sum it up, I like my books to burn and then die before they get old, and while these kinds of stories tend not to be grand examples of the very finest wordcrafting, they entertain me and make me dream for the short time between the moment my kids go to sleep and the one when I have to wake them up. This novel is the exact opposite: you need to take it slow with it. Instead of being thrown, dazzled and confused, in a new world, you’ll find that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue lures you in step after step. It seduces you until you’re curious to know how it ends, to see if a happy ending is possible after all.

Getting there is a journey, as I have mentioned, and one that lasts tree hundred years. The reader follows Addie through her happiest and most painful memories alike, from the first time her father takes her to a bigger city and she realizes there is more to life than her little village, to when she comes to understand all the ways the darkness twisted her wish, making her forgettable and potentially worthless. Nevertheless, Addie’s will to discover the world, to give meaning to her life, allows her to survive struggles that would have the strongest of us crumble to pieces and beg for the end. No matter how deprived of her identity she is, no matter if she lacks the comfort of the most basic things such as clean clothes, food or a roof on her head, no matter if she is forced to steal and sneak to survive. She stands, out of spite for the darkness, or maybe just because her need to live is stronger than anything else. Sadly, as the readers learn to know and understand her, they’ll realize her antagonist is set to do whatever is in his power to make her yield to him, as much as she will try to find ways to get around the terms of her deal.

Then the unthinkable happens.

That’s the very moment I got temporarily bored with this story. It had already taken me some effort to adjust to how Addie slides through her life, but I had begun to care. And then the author threw in another POV –someone who is completely necessary to the story and has every right to be where they are– and I had to work hard at caring again. V. E. Schwab’s style is so on point that the book lured me back in and although I kept checking how many pages there were left in the same obsessive way kids ask Are we there yet?, at this point I was incredibly curious to know what was going to happen. While I’m not going to spoil that for you, I’ll also tell you it was the most logical and sweet conclusion for the novel.

Now, if only it had ended there.

Here comes my biggest disappointment with this book: two simple sentences written 5 pages before the story ends for good. 15 little words that, put together, made me feel like I had wasted a lot of nighttime –the most precious part of the day– for nothing. Again, not going to spoil it, but please, if you happen to read this book give me some feedback on this, because I’m going to mull it over and over for eons.

I felt cheated on, which could be why I am so bitter with this novel: it could have been a perfect read and it missed, and it makes me so sad because I really wanted it to be perfect. It deserved to. The feelings I have for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue make it incredibly hard for me to try and rate it in an objective way, but at the same time I keep asking myself why I should rate it differently than what I feel it deserves just because I’m being emotional about it. Stories exist to make people feel, after all.

Sad to say I’m rating this book 8.5/10. It should be more, but giving any other rating would make me feel like I’m cheating too.

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