What would you sell your soul for?
I want to believe that my answer is “nothing.” That I would never break down and trade the core of who I am and what I believe to forces I couldn’t name and benefits I’ll never reap. But I know that I am human, and that, even if I’m sure that I love my life and everyone in it, that I wouldn’t change my past for fear that it would change my present, I have been to dark, hopeless places where, given the chance, I may have risked it all for just a few more moments.
This is what draws me so deeply into Addie’s story.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V. E. Schwab, comes out On October 6th, 2020. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy through Edelweiss, and, because I was so in love with her Darker Shades of Magic series, couldn’t wait to read it. I was already in love with Schwab’s writing style, so when I read the synopsis, telling me that this was the story of a girl who couldn’t be remembered, who’d made a deal for her very soul, I couldn’t wait to pick up the book, and oh, I’m so glad I did.
Structurally, the story is incredibly clever. It’s told in timestamps rather than chapters and features artwork spanning centuries to open each section. Now, given that I had an advance ebook copy, I couldn’t actually see the artwork, so I’m excited to receive my hardback to get a look at them, but all the same, I thought this was a brilliant way of bringing the story further into our world. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I love how the story weaves around itself, and talks in narrative semicircles to explain without being pedantic exactly how it came to this point in time while leaving just enough room in the story for you to draw your own connective lines between chapters.
Schwab puts so much emphasis on the senses, somehow capturing freezing nights in revolutionary Paris with just as much intensity as blistering summers in modern-day New York City, really settling you into how these places feel with so much detail you might as well be there. It reads like a classic novel in the best possible way, drawing you into the story before you even realize you’re invested.
As for the characters, I couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried. They come and go across the pages in an echo of how they do in Addie’s life: there for a page or two, maybe even a whole chapter, and then gone almost as soon as they appeared, leaving a brief but powerful impact on the story. The only constant in the book (save for one surprise), the only name that appears nearly on every page, is Addie, and the rest seem to swirl around her until we finally meet the one person who remembers her. This makes it just as jarring to us as it is to her, which I absolutely loved. Even with their brevity, though, these characters each take their moments to shine, so not a single one of them feels out of place or forced. I’m honestly impressed with the sheer number of people we meet, but of course, three hundred years is plenty of time to meet new people.
Addie’s tale is a classical story of the Faustian deal, but it is also so much more. It’s the story about wanting to be seen, wanting to live so much more than the tiny little life we’re all born into, wanting to break free of the ordinary and see anything and everything the world has to offer you. But it’s also the story of someone who did and never did have that little life and cannot ever make one for herself despite everything. It’s hopeless and hopeful at the same time, inevitable but with a sense of surprise, and shockingly insightful without being cliché or over-the-top.
When this book comes out in October, grab a copy of it. Hell, order it before it comes out so you can have it that very first day. Make sure you’re comfortable before you settle in to read it because once you read that first chapter, you won’t want to put it down until you’re done. Addie’s story is breathtakingly painful and beautiful in the same beat. You get to experience three hundred years of life, from the highest moments to the lowest and everything in between, in the sharp detail of a written photograph.
I’m not ashamed to admit that this book made me cry. But it also made me laugh and want to scream and shake with fear, in sync with Addie as she’s running through time. I found myself running with her, and for a while, I wasn’t sure whether we were both running to or from something. Maybe I’ll never know.
Originally published at https://www.catwebling.com on August 24, 2020.