Invisible, by Jeanne Bannon

As a father of three daughters, I want my girls to grow up with a strong sense of self-image, and thus, I’ve become interested in YA fiction that tackles this theme. Since I also enjoy contemporary fantasy, I’m intrigued when the genre is used in a creative way to illustrate the theme. That’s what drew me to this book. Just consider this cool premise:

Main character Lola has some body image issues. She feels she’s freakishly tall, awkward, fat, and generally unattractive. She’s teased at her summer camp job and bullied at school. Then without warning, she turns temporarily invisible. Now she can evade the bullies or even enact some revenge upon them, all while learning to love herself.

Going in, I was expecting that Lola would experience significant personal growth by the end of the story. It wouldn’t be right for a book about self-esteem to not have that. Without considering that a spoiler by any means, I was pleased that Lola is definitely in a better place at the end of the book. However, I was disappointed by many other aspects—including plot and character elements, as well as overall execution—of the story.

For a book with such a strong premise—a character who can turn invisible as a metaphor for not being seen for who she truly is—there was a significant lack of invisibility in the story. She spend very little time in her invisible state, and when she did, she wasn’t merely invisible, but also intangible. In many other instances of invisibility of fiction, the character can be heard and felt. Not so here, but I’m not bothered by that because that works in the plot. With her friend Charlie’s help, Lola attempts to learn control over her new power, but very little of this was shown.

Also, Lola would learn something new about her power and then tell Charlie or Jon—the boy she crushes over and eventually ends up in instalove with—about it in detail. This caused certain passages and descriptions to be repeated and told rather than shown. The reader learns (is told) that Lola isn’t the only character to have had this power, but its origin is never satisfyingly explained. I’m okay with suspending my disbelief that a character can become invisible, even if by magical reasons, but without an explanation, it reads solely as a plot device.

But my biggest issue is with Lola as a narrator. For someone who is teased and bullied, she’s awfully judgmental. Throughout the book, we learn her negative opinions about the appearances and attitudes of her family members, and though her relationship with them is strengthened (abruptly) by the end, her initial feelings toward them make her not as likeable as she could be. At the start of the story, Jon hangs with the kids who bully Lola, and she forgives him far too quickly, which undermines her personal growth and doesn’t set a good example for teen girls. And then there’s Lola’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward her best friend Charlie being gay, which doesn’t read with as much acceptance as I would have liked.

I was hoping for a creative and intriguing take on issues of self-esteem, but unfortunately, most of what I expected wasn’t visible in this book. The premise is clever, but I never felt the stakes tangibly built to a satisfying climax and resolution. Along with too much telling instead of showing, Invisible can only see TWO STARS.

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Invisible is available at Amazon.

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