Review: Invisibility

Review: InvisibilityInvisibility by Andrea Cremer, David Levithan
Published by Philomel on May 7, 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

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.

First Sentence: “I was born invisible.”

Oh, expectations, you turncoats. Always there when I start out, and off who the fuck knows where as I suffer through an uninspired book. Before you start telling me I shouldn’t have finished this book, believe me, I know that was an option. However, by the time I was sure I wouldn’t like it, I was too far into the book to DNF. Once I’ve read twenty percent or so, it’s happening, and that’s all there is to it. Invisibility isn’t necessarily a bad book, but it’s certainly not what I was hoping for, and will likely only please those who have not yet tired of the standard paranormal romance formula and tropes. Warning: this review will contain some spoilers.

My mistake, and I will admit it was mine alone, was that I assumed Invisibility would be something like Levithan’s Every Day. Admittedly, I have yet to read that book, but the premise blows my mind, and, based on friends’ reviews and recommendation, I will love it. In that book, I understand that Levithan takes a sort of metaphysical and philosophical look at a unique way of existing, and uses that to reflect on sexuality and love. With Invisibility, I hoped for something similar. What I wanted was the tale of an invisible boy, born that way for no rhyme or reason, and how he comes to find meaning in his existence. Again, this was solely my mental creation. If you had similar hopes, quash them, because Invisibility is just a paranormal romance of magic and curses.

This is why I’m honest.

To give Cremer and Levithan their dues, the world building for the magic is unique, if strange. They did at least expend the effort to come up with something a bit out of the box. The curses, especially, are very cool, and some of them legitimately freaked me out, so that was well done. Unfortunately, their hearts weren’t in that aspect of the book, so the world is uncovered and explained through a series of chapter-long infodumps. The teens go to an adult, ask for information, and receive and infodump. Then they go to another adult and repeat the process. It’s a dulling way to receive information.

All of that could easily have been saved with well-done characters, though, since characters are where my true love lies as a reader anyway. Sadly, Stephen and Elizabeth are static, with no motivations except the ones given to them by their romance. Elizabeth does have a second motivation in protecting her mother and brother, but, when push comes to shove, she always chooses Stephen over them, so that hardly counts to me.

When two authors team up to write a novel in dual perspectives, I generally assume that they both take a perspective to write. Thus, I’m excited to read books composed in this way, because I love dual perspective done well, and it should be so easy for two separate authors to create two distinct perspectives. Somehow, though, I found that I had a lot of trouble distinguishing whether I was reading an Elizabeth chapter or a Stephen chapter until one of their names was said.

Perhaps, though, Elizabeth and Stephen are so indistinguishable because they lack individual interests and personalities. Very little effort is expended to make them feel like real people. Stephen, for example, has been on his own since his mother’s death, but he apparently does nothing but order food to eat, angst, and people-watch. Though he has absolutely no one to talk to, he has no solitary hobbies to do while alone in his apartment. Um, Stephen, may I suggest the internet? I’m in my home alone right now, but, if I break from writing this review, I can go on Twitter and talk to any number of friends. Though no one can see him, he could make a network on the internet, where no one can see your physical form anyway, unless you choose to share a photo. Or, Stephen, how about reading? No wonder he’s so miserable, since he doesn’t ever do anything.

Then there’s Elizabeth, who Cremer and Levithan really tried to make cool and nerdy. Her dream in life is to be a comic book writer and illustrator, both because doing just one is lame to her. Awesome, right? I should totally love this girl. And yet. For all her supposed love of comics, her interest in comic books has been added solely as a plot device by which she can realize her own special powers, which she has been secretly using to create the world in her comic book. When her brother, Laurie, introduces her to another comic book fan, she shows no interest in ever talking to him about them. When the group ends up going several times to a really bitching comic book shop with tons of special editions, Elizabeth never once stops to peruse the selection. Yeah, she’s dealing with some serious stuff, but there is no universe where I would be able to walk through a bookstore without noting titles as I walked through or trailing my fingers along the spines. Don’t try to connect to nerds with such a shallow attempt, because we do see through that.

The only characters I liked and cared about at all were Laurie, Elizabeth’s brother, and Sean, a boy in the building Laurie is crushing on. After her parents’ divorce, their mother moved the three of them to New York City to escape homophobia so severe that Laurie was hospitalized with multiple broken bones. The father basically blamed Laurie for provoking the attack, so the dad’s obviously scum. Briefly, Laurie is a real plot point with a burgeoning romance, but we never get to find out how that’s going for him, and he becomes just a pawn to be manipulated by the bad guy. Even then, Laurie’s still more useful than Stephen. Laurie gets shit done.

Worst of all is the romance. First off, we have the invisible, personality-less boy and the pretending-to-be-a-nerd girl. Shock of shocks, she is the only person in the whole wide world who can see him! They touch and feel things. Their connection is made of magic and wondrousness and they fall in love in an unclear amount of time. However, their romance cannot have gone on for long, since she’s still a ways from school starting and summer is not that long. Hello, instalove.

It gets better, though! Without establishing any real emotional connection between these two, which would be difficult, since they don’t actually have personalities, they declare their love and begin arguing about who gets to die for the other one. Is anyone else sick of reading books about teens who are desperate to sacrifice themselves for someone they’ve only known for a month? Going back to what I mentioned earlier, Elizabeth is already willing to save Stephen’s life over that of her brother’s when forced to choose, though, obviously, she’ll manage to save both. No, bitch, your brother comes first, not the invisible kid you’ve known for a month or less. Also, and here’s where things really crossed the line, Cremer and Levithan never offer a convincing excuse for why Laurie can see Stephen, since her own powers don’t explain shit. It was a convenient way to make them feel like they must have some mystical connection.

The ending did manage to surprise me just a bit, so I will give some credit for that. Cremer and Levithan didn’t go for the obvious, easy ending that I’d predicted, so I will applaud them for finally stepping outside of the box, though I would have been grateful if it had happened 340 pages sooner.

If paranormal romances relying heavily on baseless instalove still work for you, by all means procure a copy of Invisibility. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for something deep and meaningful along the lines of Levithan’s Every Day, you might want to spare yourself the disappointment. For some samples of the writing and further insights, you can check my status updates on Goodreads, which include a sampling of quotes.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Lovebirds?’ Laurie interjects. ‘Can we put off the mating call for a sex? Methinks we have some bigger issues on the table.'”

28 responses to “Review: Invisibility”

  1. Amy says:

    I didn’t read your review except the first paragraph since I do plan on reading this. The gifs are awesome though!!

  2. KM says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this review since I saw your GR status updates. LOL! Poor, Christina. This book sounds terrible. I’m neither a David Levithan nor Andrea Cremer fan (David because he’s a jerk and Andrea because her characters annoy the heck out of me), so I knew I wouldn’t like this one. Thanks for taking one for the team, though! 😉

    • Christina says:

      Haha, well, I hope it lived up to what you imagined. Andrea’s characters are rather annoying, aren’t they? David seems like a nice guy in person, but his characters do run to the pompous often.

  3. Perhaps, though, Elizabeth and Stephen are so indistinguishable because they lack individual interests and personalities. Very little effort is expended to make them feel like real people.

    I agree with this. As well as the instalove, I couldn’t believe how FAST they fell in love–it was so jarring after the more thoughtfully paced beginning. I’m sorry you were disappointed by it–I ended up DNFing this one, too. :/

    • Christina says:

      I probably should have DNFed, but the very beginning wasn’t awful and I kept hoping something good would happen. By the time I knew things would be terrible, I was too far in to stop.

  4. EEK! Yeah, I was unsure about this one but I think I’ll avoid it now. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. I have the e-galley for this, but have been putting it off (due mostly to bad reviews and your GR updates). It’s too bad, the premise does sound cool and I love the cover.
    To answer your question, I am absolutely sick of teens who are desperate to prove their love by sacrificing themselves for somebody they barely know. I’m so tired of the insta-love trope in paranormal/dystopian YA and it is making me more and more wary of the genre.
    Great review!
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books

    • Christina says:

      Agreed. Instalove is giving the genres a bad rap. Now, instalove could maybe be done well, but it would need to be borne out through a real connection between the characters, not an excuse for leaving them flat like a post-it. If you’re sick of that, you’ll be glad you skipped it.

  6. Danielle says:

    I was going to pick this up last week and glad I didn’t now. I’ve only read one Leviathan book before and that was Dash & Lily’s which was cute but a little meh so I wasn’t enthusiastic. The premise sounds great but instalove is just ridic at this stage and too Twilight so think I’ll pass on this one.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, this could have been an interesting paranormal or an interesting thought-provoking book, but it’s just blah characters falling in instalove. What a freaking waste.

  7. Abigail says:

    Yep and Yep. I made it a quarter way through this one before declaring it a DNF. Sounds like a missed a bunch or boring annoying stuff. I really liked Stephen’s first chapter, but it went way down hill after that for all the reasons you mentioned. *Sigh*

    I did just read an actual fun book featuring an invisible protagonist, TRANSPARENT by Natalie Whipple. It’s not super deep like I was hoping INVISIBILITY would be, but at least TRANSPARENT plays with the concept and provided an explanation. Plus, no insta-love.

    • Christina says:

      You’re smarter than I am, obviously. Of course, by 25% percent, I feel compelled to stick it out. The first chapter was the best, and then it went downhill, you’re right.

      Hmm, I probably won’t read Transparent, since most of my friends were really bored. It does sound potentially better than Invisibility, though. Low bar to leap. haha.

  8. Sunny Duvall says:

    First off, I adore your GIFs, especially the first one because that perfectly describes how I feel when I feel overly critical and write a negative review. Secondly, I’m SO glad I read your review because it seemed interesting the girl on the cover looks like Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time, but gosh, this book sounds horrible. I hate insta-love, personality-less characters, and while I love multiple perspectives, I hate it if you can’t distinguish them. Bravo on the review 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Ha, thanks! I wanted one that wasn’t the “Lower Your Expectations” gif which is so perfect it’s in a billion reviews.

      I’ve not watched Once Upon a Time, well not past the first ep. Anyway, yeah, this isn’t a great read.

  9. Totally agree with your review. I finished the book and was meh about it. I kept hearing that it would be great with both of them, but they went the usual tropes, but your right with the brother over the boy. I found the romance insta too 🙁 I agree about the info dumps too 🙁
    golf claps for this review

    • Christina says:

      I’d hoped for more from Levithan. I knew Cremer did cheesy, frustrating romance, but I thought he would go in for originality. Apparently not. Ugh.

  10. Megan K. says:

    That GIF of Voldemort – *dies of laughter*

    *revives* What a disappointment. I really expected David Levithan (having read one of his other books and liking it) to do better with the romance part. And I hate it when the author(s) don’t provide a firm explanation for a MAJOR part of the book. Sorry this didn’t work out for you, but at least I know now to stay away from it, huh? Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Right? He’s so sassy.

      That’s what I expected too! I thought that Levithan’s sort of pretentious style would mean that he would be above stupid tropes, but I was WRONG. Sad day. Also, yeah, I could not believe they didn’t explain why she could see invisible people. Bah.

  11. AnimeJune says:

    Oooh, Invisibility is something I’m determined to read so I had to skip past this review. I figured it might be a paranormal romance, but EVERY DAY was pretty damn romantic.

    That being said – DO READ EVERY DAY. It is AMAZEBALLS.

    • Christina says:

      Oh, well, good luck with that.

      I’m definitely going to get to Every Day. Hopefully some time this year. I do expect it to be much better than this stereotype-ridden novel.

  12. Lyn Kaye says:

    And this sounded so cute, to boot. 🙁

    “All of that could easily have been saved with well-done characters, though, since characters are where my true love lies as a reader anyway.”

    Agreed! I so agree! I’ll add extra stars for awesome characters!

    I love your whole entire comment about the bookstore and comic nerds. You cannot just say “This person is such-and-such” and not do a damn thing with it. Ugh.

    • Christina says:

      Awesome characters can get a fairly bad plot up pretty high, because characters are my favorite thing.

      Exactly. She should at least have had a passing thought about coming back and checking out the comics once the drama was over. But nope, nothing.

  13. Aww Christina, I really enjoyed this one and totally agree about Laurie. He was my favorite. I haven’t read Cremer, but I clearly heard David’s voice. I read and loved Every Day. I went into this expecting paranormal elements so that didn’t throw me. I liked Stephen’s character and really felt his fears and emotions. Yes, I agree we could have used more details about his daily life, but I don’t think that was the authors intended focus. Wonderful review and I give you credit for finishing a book you never connected with. Hope you next read rocks for you!

  14. Molli Moran says:

    Noooooo. *shakes head* I really liked Cremer’s Nightshade series (or at least the two books of it I’ve read so far,) and her strong characters. But you know, dual POV is a pet peeve of mine because it’s usually a) unnecessary or b) exactly what you said happens, and you can’t tell the characters apart. That really pisses me off!

    I’m probably going to read this one, but I’m not going to rush out and buy it. Instead, I’ll find it a the library or borrow it from someone. Kudos to you for getting through it, girl, with all the issues!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  15. I think what I don’t understand about this is how is a kid born invisible and yet manages to make it to a teenager? Insta-love and infodumps are big turn offs for me, so I don’t think I’ll be checking this one out.

  16. Even though you told me you disliked this one, I was still going to give it a try since I had won a copy. After reading your review, I think it would be a better decision to stay away. I hate when books are one big info dump because I think that’s a terribly boring way to learn new information. I also didn’t realize that it’s paranormal with magic and stuff. That is so not my thing. I’m sorry this disappointed you so much!

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