Addie LaRue was born in the wrong time. Her world is too small; she feels trapped by the village she lives in and trapped by the expectations that society has for her. She dreads the inevitability of marriage which will take away the bit of freedom she has managed to create.
When she finds herself on that final threshold – promised to a widower looking for a mother for his children – she cries out, begging to be given a path out of the future her parents and neighbors have planned for her. And someone answers.
A stranger appears, offering exactly what she wants, as long as she is willing to pay. Addie asks for time and for freedom, to belong to no one but herself. She agrees to give up her soul to the stranger, but only when she no longer wants it.
The side effects of her deal become evident almost immediately. Addie heads back home, grateful to have avoided her fate. She is shocked when her mother does not recognize her. Worse yet, as soon as her mother leaves the room she forgets having seen Addie. She disappeared from her mother’s memory as soon as she was out of sight.
Everyone Addie used to know treats her like a stranger, she is now alone in the world. She belongs to no one and she never will.
Three hundred years later, now living in New York City, Addie has managed to build a life for herself on the fringes. She has become an expert at living on only what she can steal.
Then, everything changes. Addie finds herself in a used bookstore, looking for something to pass the time. She makes a selection and walks out the door, knowing that the clerk will forget her as soon as she is out of his view. Until he chases her down to confront her about the theft. When Addie comes back the next day, certain that their interaction was a fluke, he says three words that she thought she would never hear again: “I remember you.”
Addie is confused, delighted, and desperate to form her first real human connection in hundreds of years. She knows that this man, Henry, could be a trap set for her by the stranger, but she cannot walk away from the possibility that he presents.
She tells Henry about everything: the stranger, the deal she made, and its consequences. For three hundred years, her curse has kept people from understanding Addie’s story but Henry listens – and he believes her. Because he made a deal too.
THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab is an unusual novel, to say the least. It jumps back and forth largely between Addie in 1700s France, struggling through the limits of her new life, and Addie in 2010s New York City. The novel is surprisingly optimistic. Despite Addie’s tragic circumstances, she is able to find joy in her invisible life. She is still delighted by the people that she meets and awed by the experiences that she has only had because her life has gone on this long.
On the other hand, Addie and Henry are both keeping secrets – and the stranger has not given up his hopes of collecting the soul of Addie LaRue.
Book review by Alyssa Berry, Technical Services Librarian