I was super excited to get my hands on this ARC! I absolutely adore David Levithan. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the guy, and he’s totally awesome. His book, Every Day was one of my favorites of 2012, and probably of all time. Another one of my all time favorite books is one he co-wrote with John Green: Will Grayson, Will Grayson. And, I’ve read others that I love too! I’m safely at the point where I will just buy anything with his name on it. I haven’t read any of Cremer yet, though I have the first couple of books in her series in my TBR pile.
This book is about Stephen and Elizabeth. Stephen is invisible, literally. And all the wonderful narrative of Levithan shines through with this character. Stephen was actually born invisible and has spent his whole life not knowing why. He can make himself more solid, so people can touch him or hear him, but no one ever sees him. And it’s not the ideal life, but it works out for him, or it does at least until his mother dies. For the last year or so (following his mother’s death), he has had literally no one to talk to, to play board games with, to understand him. He has a dad that adds money to his bank account, but who has mostly been MIA since his younger childhood.
Everything changes though when Elizabeth moves into his apartment building. She sees him. Elizabeth is coming from a not so great situation herself. She just moved to NYC with her brother and her mom. They moved after her brother, Laurie, was brutally attacked and hospitalized by some teens in his town, for being gay. Elizabeth has grown accustomed to people ostracizing her and her family. Her best friends all kind of abandoned her after and even before the incident. And their sort of conservative father couldn’t accept Laurie for he is. I wouldn’t say Elizabeth wanted to be invisible, in so much as she wished people could be more accepting and genuine.
The two characters briefly have a “pretend” fantasy relationship where Stephen actually can pretend to be normal. He kind of lies to Elizabeth, who just assumes that everyone can see him. Why would she ever think otherwise? And by the time the secret is out of the bag, Elizabeth is already in love with him. And from that point on the book takes a different route. It becomes more about spell casters and curses. Stephen, Elizabeth and Laurie find out that Stephen has been cursed by his grandfather. His grandfather technically cursed his mother to only be able to have children she could never see.
With the help of a comic book store owner/magical mentor, the trio look into ways to breaking the rather impenetrable curse. Elizabeth learns a lot about her rather remarkable abilities. I kind of love that she could see Stephen because of a magical reason, and not just a true love reason. This just seemed more logical than what I was expecting, and I was grateful. Elizabeth learns about her abilities. The evil grandfather comes to town. Tons of New Yorkers are cursed (anything from cursed to not ever being to call a taxi to cursed to not being able to take care of themselves mentally or physically). Some of the curses are scary. And it comes to a point where Elizabeth really has to decide what she is willing to give up to possibly break Stephen’s curse, one of the strongest curses there is.
This book is loaded with family drama, comic books, relationship dilemmas, magic, terrible fates and curses, death, depression, and so many notions about what it really means to be alone.
As far as concepts go, this book was genius. I loved the beginning. Every single part of Stephen’s chapters was beautiful. His loneliness was so real, so intense, that my heart just melted for him. Elizabeth was harder to like. I liked her interest in comic books. I grew to love her curiosity for spells and curses. I also came to love her general need to help people, all people. For some reason though, her chapters just never captivated me. She was sort of a mediocre main character in my opinion. Nothing really stood out about her. Maybe I feel this way because the other main character stood out in all the right ways. I don’t know. It’s got to be hard to compete with Levithan’s character building.
I also just didn’t love this book as much as I wanted to. The beginning captivated me. I was dying to learn Stephen’s story. But once I did, the plot kind of went down hill. It kind of followed all the other YA supernatural plot lines. There’s the magical mentor, the learning of magic existing, the working hard to harness new powers, and then the big fight with the bad guy. I just wanted something a little different, after such a distinctive beginning. I was engrossed in the story again at the very end. Everything kind of culminates back on the rooftop and I could not put the book down until I read the last page. I also give the authors serious points for not ending this book exactly as I thought it would end. I was a little surprised, in a good way!
The writing was still unbelievable. I loved Stephen from the first chapter. He is such a unique, intelligent character! I was not a big Elizabeth fan (she needed a little more depth). Though, I loved her brother (who was my second favorite character after Stephen). I was not a fan of the stereotypical middle part of the book. It disappointed me after such a unique beginning to then get such a cliché plot line about magic and curses. However, the ending was fantastic. I also really enjoyed the New York setting. Overall, I give it a 7/10.