The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by V.E. Schwab
“Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?”
To be published Oct. 6, 2020 by Tor Books
Genre: historical fantasy
Date finished: May 17, 2020
Content warnings: drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal ideation
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
My thoughts (spoiler free)
I always feel hesitant to post a critical review of a hyped ARC, since too often I see it taken as proof that the book is overhyped and “bad,” which is not at all the case here. Even though I didn’t love this book, much of that came from personal preference or my expectations being different from what I got. I believe that there will be plenty of people who love this book; I just wasn’t one of those people.
I feel so conflicted about everything about this book, and I wavered a lot before settling on three stars as my rating. I’m still not sure if that’s the right rating… but that’s what I’m going to stick with.
Okay, this review is going to be a mess, I can already tell. Let’s just get into it.
The story follows Addie LaRue, who grew up in a French village in the early 18th century. When she’s faced with an impossible situation, she makes a bargain with the only deity that answers her prayers: she trades away her soul and her ability to be remembered in exchange for the chance to live forever. She spends the next three hundred years being forgotten by everyone she meets, until 2014, when she meets a boy who remembers her.
“This is how you live forever. Here is one day, and here is the next, and the next, and you take what you can, savor every second stolen, cling to every moment, until it’s gone.”
Starting out with what I did enjoy: V.E. Schwab’s writing is, as always, beautiful. She has a way of crafting phrases and metaphors to capture a moment or a feeling in a way that you might never have considered before. It’s the kind of lush, captivating writing that, as a writer, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of.
Also, the concept of this book and the ideas that it explores are nothing short of incredible. The idea of a woman who lives forever but is forgotten by everyone she ever meets? Pure poetic brilliance! Who wouldn’t want to read about her life? There were so many complications that I didn’t even consider at first, such as the fact that she can’t even have a place to live. It’s heartbreaking and gut-wrenching in all the right ways.
Plus, Addie as a character is fascinating and we stan female characters who unapologetically want things and are willing to go after them.
Yet despite all this, I spent the whole book feeling like I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wanted to.
The biggest issue for me was that it was so slow. Now I like slow, character-focused books! But I kept waiting for something to grab me and keep me invested, and it never really happened. The plot didn’t show up until almost 200 pages in. About half of the book was told through flashbacks of Addie’s life throughout history, and even though it was interesting to read about how she adapted to the various time periods, it started to feel repetitive after a while and didn’t contribute much to the overall story.
I almost hesitate to say this, because it feels so contrary to what I usually say in reviews, but this book felt too sentimental. And this is coming from someone who loves sentimentality and sappiness! But in this case, it was laid on too thick for my taste, to the point that it got in the way of me fully relating to or sympathizing with the characters.
And finally, the ending, which is the part I’m most conflicted about, and I’m going to be super vague and cryptic to avoid spoiling anything. It’s not that I didn’t like the ending, it’s that I wanted it to go very differently and therefore was disappointed when it didn’t. I got the sense that V.E. Schwab wanted to subvert the reader’s expectations by playing with familiar tropes, but the way it turned out ended up being unsatisfying rather than mind-blowing for me.
So in conclusion: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I hoped that writing this review would help me sort out some of my thoughts on this book, but I’m still as conflicted about it as ever. Mostly, though, I feel a little sad that I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to, or as much as I’ve enjoyed V.E. Schwab’s books in the past. I suppose not every book can be a winner for everyone, and this one ended up simply not being for me.
“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”
*ARC PROVIDED BY PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*