I honestly think that Marcus Sedgwick is one of the most underrated writers that I’ve ever read. His books often leave me feeling mesmerised long after I’ve left the final page behind. He doesn’t care about trends or pleasing people. He delivers unique stories and interesting narratives – each of which is nothing like the last. He writes in different genres and isn’t afraid to cross the lines of them and make you wonder exactly what you’ve let yourself in for. I have a lot of admiration for him. From the beautifully written historical fiction of Revolver, to the strange but compelling fantasy of Midwinterblood, he has always seemed to deliver. Which, I think, makes She Is Not Invisible doubly disappointing.
This book tries. You can see it trying from page one. Maybe, you might say, it tries too hard. I was initially delighted by the introduction of a blind teen protagonist – not something I am too familiar with – and the engaging opening that presents us with a bizarre mystery. In this story, Laureth Peak’s father is a famous writer who appears to have gone missing. He is supposed to be doing research in Europe but all is apparently not what it seems when someone contacts Laureth informing her that her father’s notebook has been found in New York. Afraid for her father’s safety and perhaps even his sanity, Laureth runs away with her brother on a mission to locate their missing parent after the other one seems unconcerned. Even inexperienced readers will find themselves mentally working through the possibilities of what could have happened – good news is, you’re all probably wrong.
But there’s bad news too. Or there was for me. Firstly, there’s a lack of believability in everything that happens in this novel. I can suspend disbelief quite a lot, I really can. But not only does Laureth manage to fool numerous airport staff into letting a blind sixteen-year-old girl leave the country with her kid brother, she also manages to sufficiently distract the security at the New York airport enough that they simply wave her through. That’s right. The security staff at an airport were like “oh well, we’re a bit distracted with this other thing over here so go on through”. The book was already losing me by this point.
The problems I had with the believability were a real shame. More so in this than other books because I really appreciated the author trying to realistically portray the way a blind person perceives the world. Through Laureth, I had the opportunity to think about things I don’t normally consider and understand a bit more about the difficulties facing people with little to no eyesight. It made for some sad and terrifying scenes in the book. But it still failed in the end, if you ask me. The book became a joke with every ridiculous turn it took and this detracted from what had started as something really special.
Though perhaps the thing I disliked most were the attempts to make this book deeply philosophical. This is what I mean when I said it tried too hard. Unlike the other novels I’ve read by this author, the book set out to convey a message, not to tell a story. And it didn’t work. The slow build-up was manageable only because it seemed to promise a wow factor somewhere down the line… it was anticlimactic, to say the least. The main story is split up with pages of Laureth’s father’s notebook which talks about coincidence, patterns of the universe, Einstein (amongst other scientists) and the general meaning of it all. It asked big questions but seemed to end with a shrug of its metaphorical shoulders that left me feeling like I’d just wasted the last couple of hours. Very disappointing.