A star amongst YA novels

Columnists reviews The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab is a young adult novel that explores the life of a timeless girl after she made a deal without naming the terms. “In addition,” Ortner-Findlay said, “I connected deeply with Addie LaRue’s fear and deep-rooted anxiety about aging and not creating a life in which I’ve felt I’ve lived or done something that mattered.” The book by Schwab was published in 2020, after being in development for a little over a decade.

Victoria Elizabeth Schwab, also known as V.E. Schwab, produced or contributed to over 30 novels in her short but expansive career. After reading one of her latest works, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I am so excited that there are such a variety of novels written underneath her name. The following review has vague spoilers towards the analysis section.

Synopsis-

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue begins in the early 1700s, introducing the reader to a young girl finding out her connection to her family and her town, with a need to explore the world. It presents the struggle between blooming Christianity in rural France with the belief in something older that would answer in ways the people would deem made them real. By 1714, at the age of 23, Addie LaRue had defied the expectations of women in her day by staying unwed and independent, fostering her love of exploration through drawing.

As a result of this stark refusal to obey the rules laid bare for her by society, Addie’s mother engages her with a young man whom she does not want to marry.

Addie is racked with the stifling fear that she will die a slow death, a death of her spirit for an adventure like her friends have after becoming mothers in this grueling time. Addie had grown up surrounded by the duality of her beliefs between the old gods and God and had spent months praying to anything that would listen, begging for more time, illness, or anything to spare her from the death of her individualism.

Blink and you’re twenty-eight, and everyone else is now a mile down the road, and you’re still trying to find it, and the irony is hardly lost on you that in wanting to live, to learn, to find yourself, you’ve gotten lost.”

— V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Estele, her mentor and another motherly figure in her life, had taught her everything she needed to know about the old gods in the French woods, and the most important rule was to never pray to the gods that answer after dark.

However, in desperation for more time and to put space between her and her decided future, Addie runs into the woods, praying to anything that will listen. The wind carries the sounds of her wedding party screaming her name, and Addie does not notice the falling sun on the horizon.

Addie finally hears a response, but not from one of the gods that Estele had told her were safe, but from a god that answered after dark. He begins by stating that he can give her what she wants but that she needs to tell him exactly what she wants out of this deal. 

Next, in her frenzy to escape, Addie said that she wanted time and offered up a ring made by her father, but he said that that wasn’t enough, that he dealt in souls. So Addie LaRue, desiring freedom and the ability to see the world, said he could have her life when she was done living it, as long as he gave her more time.

After the deal is made, Addie finds that she no longer exists in the same world as other people. When people leave Addie’s sight, they instantly forget who she is, making her memory never stay in other people’s minds. Addie was free to live as long as she wanted, without aging, but cursed never to leave a mark or be remembered by those she meets and loves, losing people who never knew they were lost.

Until she meets a boy named Henry Strauss, who somehow miraculously knows who she is after she attempted to steal a book and gives her one of the few things she had wanted to hear for 323 years.

Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.”

— V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Analysis-

I adored the writing style of this book and was surprised by the fact that the descriptions were so fluid, moving between the imagery that Schwab was creating and what she was describing. I thought this book was a unique and interesting comment on the anxiety surrounding running out of time or feeling trapped within your own life, or the expectations to succeed within a family.

In addition, I connected deeply with Addie LaRue’s fear and deep-rooted anxiety about aging and not creating a life in which I’ve felt I’ve lived or done something that mattered. This is also why I felt like the symbolism behind her not being able to leave a mark or be remembered is such an integral part of the story. The whole point of living a life that means something is to leave a mark on the world, and for Addie not to do that was a deeply twisted part of her deal.

Throughout the book, I felt like the details of her curse and the research into writing this book made it feel more real. The seven sections mirror Addie’s seven freckles and start with a piece of artwork influenced by her. The different pieces show Addie’s influence on music and art throughout the centuries toying with the idea that memory and ideas are wild and separate entities.

Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades…. Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end… everyone wants to be remembered”

— V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

While the story centers around our forgotten girl, Addie LaRue, Henry Strauss is a profoundly complicated character that explores the complex relationship between meeting expectations from an expectant family and feeling like you’re not good enough. Henry seems to experience severe depression and anxiety, making his own deal with the dark always to be seen as enough for other people, but bargained for far less time than Addie. When he was introduced and remembered her, I felt his presence in the book was too good to be true, and we quickly discovered it was.

Towards the end, the chapters jump back and forth with the dates. Although difficult to follow at first, I discovered these time hops were the occasions when Henry wrote Addie’s stories that she shared with him. Addie could not tell her story, but Henry could.  The novel was a book within a book. I thought it was a very lovingly crafted touch, and it made me go back through the novel to see if the book description in the book was accurate to the one I was holding. 

One of my favorite parts of the book is the stillness Addie had when faced with Henry’s death. The girl who had desired so much freedom, been around the world, and known so many horrors, gave all of that up for Henry to have more time. Her only wish to the only human who remembered who she was, was for him to remember the story of Addie LaRue.

It is just a storm, he tells himself, but he is tired of looking for shelter. It is just a storm, but there is always another waiting in its wake.”

— V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a timeless tale. I look forward to diving deeper into the universe that Schwab has created in her other novels. Readers who love fantasy, enemies to lovers, and fiction will find Addie’s story a riveting adventure filled with nuggets from several historical moments. However, the most crucial tale that Addie can say to us is that life is meant to live in the moment and focus on the connections we make one day at a time.