Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue By V.E. Schwab
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue begins in 1714, in France. Where 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.
Sneak Peek Into “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”
The girl wakes up in someone else’s bed.
She lies there, perfectly still, tries to hold time like a breath in her chest; as if she can keep the clock from ticking forward, keep the boy beside her from waking, keep the memory of their night alive through sheer force of will.
She knows, of course, that she can’t. Knows that he’ll forget. They always do.
It isn’t his fault—it is never their faults.
The boy is still asleep, and she watches the slow rise and fall of his shoulders, the place where his dark hair curls against the nape of his neck, the scar along his ribs. Details long memorized.
His name is Toby.
Last night, she told him hers was Jess. She lied, but only because she can’t say her real name—one of the vicious little details tucked like nettles in the grass. Hidden barbs designed to sting. What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind? She has learned to step between the thorny weeds, but there are some cuts that cannot be avoided—a memory, a photograph, a name.
In the last month, she has been Claire, Zoe, Michelle—but two nights ago, when she was Elle, and they were closing down a late-night café after one of his gigs, Toby said that he was in love with a girl named Jess—he simply hadn’t met her yet.
So now, she is Jess.
Toby begins to stir, and she feels the old familiar ache in her chest as he stretches, rolls toward her—but doesn’t wake, not yet. His face is now inches from her, his lips parted in sleep, black curls shadowing his eyes, dark lashes against fair cheeks.
Once, the darkness teased the girl as they strolled along the Seine, told her that she had a “type,” insinuating that most of the men she chose—and even a few of the women—looked an awful lot like him.
The same dark hair, the same sharp eyes, the same etched features.
But that wasn’t fair.
After all, the darkness only looked the way he did because of her. She’d given him that shape, chosen what to make of him, what to see.
“A dreamer,” scorns her mother.
“A dreamer,” mourns her father.
“A dreamer,” warns Estele.
Still, it does not seem such a bad word.”
Don’t you remember, she told him then, when you were nothing but shadow and smoke?
Darling, he’d said in his soft, rich way, I was the night itself.
Now it is morning, in another city, another century, the bright sunlight cutting through the curtains, and Toby shifts again, rising up through the surface of sleep. And the girl who is—was—Jess holds her breath again as she tries to imagine a version of this day where he wakes, and sees her, and remembers.
Where he smiles, and strokes her cheek, and says, “Good morning.”
But it won’t happen like that, and she doesn’t want to see the familiar vacant expression, doesn’t want to watch as the boy tries to fill in the gaps where memories of her should be, witness as he pulls together his composure into practiced nonchalance. The girl has seen that performance often enough, knows the motions by heart, so instead she slides from the bed and pads barefoot out into the living room.
She catches her reflection in the hall mirror and notices what everyone notices: the seven freckles, scattered like a band of stars across her nose and cheeks.
Her own private constellation.
She leans forward and fogs the glass with her breath. Draws her fingertip through the cloud as she tries to write her name. A—d—
But she only gets as far as that before the letters dissolve. It’s not the medium—no matter how she tries to say her name, no matter how she tries to tell her story. And she has tried, in pencil, in ink, in paint, in blood.
It is no use.
The letters crumble, or fade. The sounds die in her throat.
Her fingers fall away from the glass and she turns, surveying the living room.
Toby is a musician, and the signs of his art are everywhere.
In the instruments that lean against the walls. In the scribbled lines and notes scattered on tables—bars of half-remembered melodies mixed in with grocery lists and weekly to-do’s. But here and there, another hand—the flowers he’s started keeping on the kitchen sill, though he can’t remember when the habit started. The book on Rilke he doesn’t remember buying. The things that last, even when memories don’t.
Toby is a slow riser, so Addie makes herself tea—he doesn’t drink it, but it’s already there, in his cupboard, a tin of loose Ceylon, and a box of silk pouches. A relic of a late-night trip to the grocery store, a boy and a girl wandering the aisles, hand in hand, because they couldn’t sleep. Because she hadn’t been willing to let the night end. Wasn’t ready to let go.
She lifts the mug, inhales the scent as memories waft up to meet it.
A park in London. A patio in Prague. A team room in Edinburgh.
The past drawn like a silk sheet over the present.
It’s a cold morning in New York, the windows fogged with frost, so she pulls a blanket from the back of the couch and wraps it around her shoulders. A guitar case takes up one end of the sofa, and Toby’s cat takes up the other, so she perches on the piano bench instead.
The cat, also named Toby (“So I can talk to myself without it being weird…” he explained) looks at her as she blows on her tea.
She wonders if the cat remembers.
Her hands are warmer now, and she sets the mug on top of the piano and slides the cover up off the keys, stretches her fingers, and starts to play as softly as possible. In the bedroom, she can hear Toby-the-human stirring, and every inch of her, from skeleton to skin, tightens in dread.
This is the hardest part.
Addie could have left—should have left—slipped out when he was still asleep, when their morning was still an extension of their night, a moment trapped in amber. But it is too late now, so she closes her eyes and continues to play, keeps her head down as she hears his footsteps underneath the notes, keeps her fingers moving when she feels him in the doorway. He’ll stand there, taking in the scene, trying to piece together the timeline of last night, how it could have gone astray, when he could have met a girl and then taken her home, if he could have had too much drink, why he doesn’t remember any of it.
“What she needs are stories.
Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.
Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.
Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.”
But she knows that Toby won’t interrupt her as long as she’s playing, so she savors the music for several more seconds before forcing herself to trail off, look up, pretend she doesn’t notice the confusion on his face.
“Morning,” she says, her voice cheerful, and her accent, once country French, now so faint that she hardly hears it.
“Uh, good morning,” he says, running a hand through his loose black curls, and to his credit, Toby looks the way he always does—a little dazed, and surprised to see a pretty girl sitting in his living room wearing nothing but a pair of underwear and his favorite band T-shirt beneath the blanket.
“Jess,” she says, supplying the name he can’t find, because it isn’t there. “It’s okay,” she says, “if you don’t remember.”
Toby blushes, and nudges Toby-the-cat out of the way as he sinks onto the couch cushions. “I’m sorry … this isn’t like me. I’m not that kind of guy.”
She smiles. “I’m not that kind of girl.”
He smiles, too, then, and it’s a line of light breaking the shadows of his face. He nods at the piano, and she wants him to say something like, “I didn’t know you could play,” but instead Toby says, “You’re really good,” and she is—it’s amazing what you can learn when you have the time.
“Thanks,” she says, running her fingertips across the keys.
Toby is restless now, escaping to the kitchen. “Coffee?” he asks, shuffling through the cupboards.
“I found tea.”
She starts to play a different song. Nothing intricate, just a strain of notes. The beginnings of something. She finds the melody, takes it up, lets its slip between her fingers as Toby ducks back into the room, a steaming cup in his hands.
“What was that?” he asks, eyes brightening in that way unique to artists—writers, painters, musicians, anyone prone to moments of inspiration. “It sounded familiar…”
A shrug. “You played it for me last night.”
It isn’t a lie, not exactly. He did play it for her. After she showed him.
“I did?” he says, brow furrowing. He’s already setting the coffee aside, reaching for a pencil and a notepad off the nearest table. “God—I must have been drunk.”
He shakes his head as he says it; Toby’s never been one of those songwriters who prefer to work under the influence.
“Do you remember more?” he asks, turning through the pad. She starts playing again, leading him through the notes. He doesn’t know it, but he’s been working on this song for weeks. Well, they have.
She smiles a little as she plays on. This is the grass between the nettles. A safe place to step. She can’t leave her own mark, but if she’s careful, she can give the mark to someone else. Nothing concrete, of course, but inspiration rarely is.
“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”
Toby’s got the guitar up now, balanced on one knee, and he follows her lead, murmuring to himself. That this is good, this is different, this is something. She stops playing, gets to her feet.
“I should go.”
The melody falls apart on the strings as Toby looks up. “What? But I don’t even know you.”
“Exactly,” she says, heading for the bedroom to collect her clothes.
“But I want to know you,” Toby says, setting down the guitar and trailing her through the apartment, and this is the moment when none of it feels fair, the only time she feels the wave of frustration threatening to break. Because she has spent weeks getting to know him. And he has spent hours forgetting her. “Slow down.”
She hates this part. She shouldn’t have lingered. Should have been out of sight as well as out of mind, but there’s always that nagging hope that this time, it will be different, that this time, they will remember.
I remember, says the darkness in her ear.
She shakes her head, forcing the voice away.
3 Words to Describe This Book
WORDY, PLOTLESS, LYRICAL
Lately, I haven’t been able to read fiction novels. I don’t know why, and I don’t know when it started but it was as if all of a sudden a switch went off in my head and I lost all interest in fiction books.
When I stumbled upon The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, it was just another rainy day in September and I was getting cozy rolling around in bed. My interest peaked when I saw this book was described as a romance novel––and we all know how much your girl goes gaga for love stories especially one that has villains as the love interest. So there I was, counting down the days until I could get my hands on the book excitedly and once I have it, I was galloping through the book like a wild horse––at first.
Then I started slowing down. And slowed down some more. And then some more. Until I finally stopped reading and gave up 59% through The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
Because I got bored.
To be honest, I don’t think there was a plot for this book. Or maybe there was, but it missed me completely. I went into this book with high expectations, especially with how much people were hyping about it, I totally thought this is going to be the book that made me start reading fiction novels again. Boy oh boy, was I wrong.
What I thought would be a story about pain, heartache, angst turned out to just be a story about….time. For the first 75 or so pages, the jumping back and forth between Addie’s past and present was stomach-able. Because I know the author has to build the storyline, let us get to know Addie a little bit more before jumping into the action. So I kept reading––about how Addie struck a deal with the devil, and how she survived the past 300 years with this curse, you know, the immensely interesting stuff. Sometime around 40% of the book, I was sure shit is going to go down any time soon. Because I mean, come on, I have endured and forced myself to read about the absolutely mind-numbing history of Addie LaRue, at least now I should be rewarded with some fun action no?
Well what do you know, the answer is a resounding no. Because the plot just. doesn’t. change.
It adds a new character––Henry––who is even whinier than Addie. All this boy does is whine, and for some reason, Addie fell stupidly in love with him. Until now I’m still not quite sure what this character does other than to try––and fail––to add spice to the story. But that aside, the storyline itself just doesn’t seem to move forward. It was as if it was stuck in time as Addie did.
Hmm. I don’t really know what I feel about this girl. I can’t say that I hate her, because I don’t. Most of the time, I’m pretty indifferent about her minus the few times that I sympathize with her and her struggles throughout the centuries that she’s been alive. Other than that, however, I really cannot give a damn about this girl who everyone seems to forget, but somehow influenced many of the classic art pieces and music throughout the centuries.
“You want an ending,” she says.
“Then take my life when I am done with it. You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore.”
Her falling in love with Henry seemingly out of nowhere, that is also something I wasn’t able to comprehend. Like…how? The guy literally has the personality of a cardboard. I know he has a curse too, but that just makes no sense to me how she’s just all of a sudden seems so smitten by him when they have no chemistry whatsoever together. I mean come on, Addie has more chemistry with the darkness who only appears for a little while every few chapters.
Sometimes I wonder if she just tried to hold on to Henry by saying she loves him because he’s the only person who seems to remember her and that it’s not love that she feels for him.
What a waste. What a total, utter waste that V.E. Schwab didn’t expand on the darkness––Luc––as a character. He is seriously way more interesting than all the characters in this book combined.
“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”
From what little I could glean of him from when he suddenly popped up in between chapters, he definitely got a lot going on. For some reason kind of reminds me of The Darkling from the Shadow and Bone series. It’s such a shame that Luc only appears so sparingly throughout the book.
PRETTY PROSE, BUT A BUNCH OF EMPTIES
Oh gurl, let me tell you. I would need to add a dozen more hands when it comes to all the lyrical and beautiful quotes that I have highlighted from this book. However, no matter how much I love those beautiful yet haunting words, in the end, it was just glamor without anything to back it up.
Halfway through the book, I stopped trying to highlight the quotes anymore because at the end of the day, they meant nothing. I would re-read them again at a later date and remember nothing about the story or why I highlighted it in the first place. In the end, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue might just disappear and be as unmemorable as Addie was.
Unless you’re a huge fan of V.E. Schwab, I truly wouldn’t recommend this book. Even now, a week after I stopped reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I already forgot most of what happened in the book.
On top of that, I don’t know why, but for some reason V.E. Schwab’s team seem to deem it okay to market this book as something it isn’t. I went into this novel thinking that I will be reading a novel about a love story that defies time and space, but what did I get? Nada. Well, I mean if you call that lukewarm attraction Addie had towards Henry romance, then maybe this book is a romance novel after all. I was hoping for a lot of angst, and tears but all I got was boredom.
Like I get it, people love romance. They love experiencing it, reading about it, watching it. People just love love. While the lack of romance in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue isn’t exactly a bad thing, marketing it as something it obviously wasn’t is just very deceitful and low.
To be honest I don’t know, I went into this book thinking that it will be the fiction of 2020 but I left with only disappointment piled on top of disappointment.
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