In “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” author V. E. Schwab takes both the finer and uglier parts about being human and somehow swirls them into an enchanting tale. This book is the 14th addition to the 33-year-old’s repertoire of published fiction, which draws in middle schoolers as well as adults.
In the broadest sense, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” concerns two types of heartache: fading from the memory of someone you still love and not being loved for what you truly are. However, so many minutiae are perfectly embedded in the story that it’s almost arbitrary to whittle it down to such themes.
So who is Addie LaRue? She’s the protagonist, but also a testament to what it means to be extremely human. That is, she wishes for certain freedoms that are inherently un-human, as many humans do. On one particular night, her hunger for these freedoms gets twisted into a corrupt exchange that rewrites her entire life. From that night on, she acquires an eternal existence on earth by never physically aging, but she pays for it by having a fleeting existence to others: She is forgotten by everyone she meets. No matter how meaningful of a connection LaRue develops with another person, she is bound to slip from their memory. It’s like the movie “50 First Dates,” except instead of Lucy forgetting everyone, it’s Lucy who remembers everyone while everyone else forgets her.
With a premise like that, there is definitely a hum of heavy reflection throughout the story. Though, in spite of her curse, LaRue admirably does not resign herself to it. Although the readers glimpse plenty of moments throughout her centuries-long life, it’s never made clear whether she regrets the exchange over time; rather, the readers are invited to ponder that for themselves. Still, by the very last page, all of the complexities of the story tie together, much like how the complexities of life tie together in a way that strangely makes total sense.
Another highlight of the book is the composition itself. Schwab’s writing retains the poise of classical literature, yet it is much easier to digest. The narration is so beautiful and flowy that any reader will get swept away into the story’s meandering offshoots about art, emotion, religion, relationships and more. It is quite the collection of meditations: words put to feelings that most would probably consider indescribable. Schwab also keeps the reader on their toes by hinting at undisclosed secrets and then masterfully unraveling them when it is least expected. At other times, she lets details remain blurry for the readers to sharpen them into something that resonates with them personally.
What really makes all 447 pages truly worth reading, though, is the way that they impart a revived sense of gratitude for life. The read is a reminder that every person’s time on Earth is limited, yet filled with so many opportunities to make an eternal existence out of themselves. You might wonder if the book’s own title is an oxymoron, as this idea is written all over it (literally): No living being is truly invisible, no matter how convinced they are otherwise.