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Friday, December 20, 2013

'She is Not Invisible' by Marcus Sedgwick

From the BLURB:

Laureth Peak's father is a writer. For years he's been trying, and failing, to write a novel about coincidence. His wife thinks he's obsessed, Laureth thinks he's on the verge of a breakdown. He's supposed to be doing research in Austria, so when his notebook shows up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong.

On impulse she steals her mother's credit card and heads for the States, taking her strange little brother Benjamin with her. Reunited with the notebook, they begin to follow clues inside, trying to find their wayward father. Ahead lie challenges and threats, all of which are that much tougher for Laureth than they would be for any other 16-year old. Because Laureth Peak is blind.

One final time I told myself I wasn’t abducting my little brother.

Thus begins Marcus Sedgwick’s triumphant young adult novel ‘She Is Not Invisible’ about sixteen-year-old Laureth Peak who ‘abducts’ her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, and goes on a thrilling adventure from Manchester, UK to New York in search of their missing father.

Jack Peak was a famous novelist – back when he wrote ‘funny’ books – but for the last few years (most of Benjamin’s life in fact) Jack Peak has been working on a new book all about coincidence. It’s taken up most of his time, maybe even his sanity and possibly his marriage– as he researches Edgar Allen Poe, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein the haunting of number-354 and The Hound of Heaven. Most recently he’s been on a research trip to Switzerland … but when Laureth hasn’t heard from her father in almost a week, she grows concerned. Even more so when she receives a mysterious email from someone in New York claiming to have found her father’s precious notebook. 

Her mother seems unconcerned with Jack’s whereabouts, but Laureth has a funny feeling. She’s determined to go to New York and find her father, but she needs Benjamin to do it. Because Laureth is blind.

Once we were at Auntie Sarah’s and Mum found me crying, and I think she knew what was going on, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it. 
So I said it for her. 
‘It’s okay. They’re just idiots. Can’t handle someone who’s a bit different.’ 
And Mum started crying then and told me how sorry she was but I told her not to be, because you can’t miss what you’ve never had, because I’m not unhappy with the way I am, because I don’t mind being blind. What I mind is people treating me as if I’m stupid. 

I’m in absolute awe of both Marcus Sedgwick and Laureth. Here is a heart-palpitating mystery thriller about two children following the trail of their father’s mad scribblings through the world’s busiest city – and the entire story is narrated by Laureth. It’s no mean feat to communicate the sounds and smells, the feel of New York minus the sense of sight, but Sedgwick does it marvellously. 

The story is told in real-time as Laureth and Ben go hunting for their missing father, and while piecing together his puzzle, Laureth reflects on the events leading up to her father’s disappearance and the long obsession he’s had with his book on coincidence. Interspersed throughout the book are pages from Jack Peak’s ‘black book’ – containing ideas about his next book, mad ramblings about the number 354 and a seeming paranoia about The Hound Of Heaven.

Without a doubt, it’s refreshing to read a young adult book with a blind protagonist, but especially Sedgwick’s book because Laureth’s lack of sight is never communicated as a ‘disability’. It’s just who she is and she wouldn’t change it even if she could, but she is frustrated at having to adapt to other people who treat her differently (from begrudging pity to empty sympathy). Laureth is in no way held back by her blindness. In fact, it gives her a far more open perspective of people.  

I remember being tiny, about Benjamin’s age, standing in the sweet shop, and the woman behind the counter asking Mum, ‘What does she want? Does she like chocolates? Or something else? How do you manage with her? It must be very hard…’ 
She kept on and on, as if I wasn’t there. 
As if I were invisible. But I’m not. The woman kept on and on, and Mum didn’t know what to say, and I just stood there, feeling more and more upset, and as she went on, I suddenly thought it was as if she was the one who was blind, and couldn’t see me, not the other way around.

‘She Is Not Invisible’ is also a writing triumph for Marcus Sedgwick. I don’t want to give the surprise away – but coincidences run deeper in this book than just the plot, and when it’s revealed just how much tricky thought Sedgwick put into the writing, your jaw will drop 

‘She Is Not Invisible’ is a wonderful novel, and definitely going on my favourite’s list. Laureth is one of the finest young sleuths and this mystery thriller is so finely crafted so as to send tingles down your spine well after the last page … 


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