Thursday, 12 January 2017

It's Not As Meaningful As You Think It Is - "She Is Not Invisible" by Marcus Sedgwick | Book Review

Goodreads Page

Thoughts

The first thing that struck me when I picked up this book was that there wasn't a single mention of Laureth's blindness in the blurb on the back cover, though it's mentioned in the Goodreads blurb. Disability in Kidlit has a great article on disability in book covers that I think I'd be better off linking to than trying to broach the topic in any great detail myself. Basically, visibility is important, especially when it helps children and young adults find themselves in books, and how can they find themselves if there isn't anything to tell them on the book covers?

Honestly, this book was brilliant. The plot itself was interesting, the characters were in turns adorable (Benjamin, Laureth's little brother), relatable (Laureth herself), and ridiculously entertaining (Stan, Benjamin's stuffed raven that has a very unique personality).

Laureth's blindness was (in my opinion - note that I'm not visually impaired) dealt with so well in this book. Watching her go about her daily, and not so daily, routines - using a phone with text-to-speech, using her other senses to get herself a feel for the area she's in, using little techniques to appear "not blind" when trying to get herself and her little brother through the airport, was great. Her perception was interesting to read through - having the book use no descriptions by sight, and having Laureth think about things people said that meant nothing to her, like colour and the way people look at each other to convey meaning, opened me to thinking in different ways about how the visually impaired perceive their worlds.

This book also addresses some important topics concerning disability in literature - how blind characters are treated in the comic books Benjamin reads leads to thinking about magical disabilities, tropes of the pity-able blind person, and the cured-in-the-end disabilities that make for happy endings. 

Even the topics of race and internalised prejudice comes up, when we find out a character is black, which Laureth couldn't know, and he asks her whether she assumed he was white. As a reader, I know I did do that, and that was a very, very effective moment to make you examine how you think.

Lets get into the plot of the book - coincidence, and Laureth's missing father. In the end, I found that this book was mostly about one idea that is mentioned in the book itself: apophenia. Apophenia in the medical sense describes when people suffering from psychosis find patterns and meanings to things that don't exist, but can also apply to people who are just trying to find patterns and meanings to events in life which have none.

Hence the title of this review: it's not as meaningful as you think it is

At the end of this book I found myself thinking that as a mantra for everything that happened during the story - all these events around Laureth trying to find her father, as well as his notebook entries, sets you up for an ending that some people might find anti-climactic - but I feel like that's the point!

The lesson in this book I think is to calm down and realise that there probably isn't as much going on as you think there is, and how dangerous it is to get obsessed by the idea that there is hidden meaning behind things that are more simple than they seem.

All in all, this book was a solid 4, or 4.5 stars. The family dynamics were also great, and the idea of the absent parent trope so prevalent in YA was dealt with without feeling like a cop-out (not like in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which the book almost put me in mind of). Plus the central trio of characters, and yes, I'm including Stannous the stuffed raven, and if you read the book you'll understand why, have such great interactions with each other that the book is brilliantly entertaining, heartwarming, and educational.

Also, I wonder how many times 354 does come up in this book?

Things to look out for:

  • A blind main character that's represented really well
  • Great family dynamics
  • An interesting plot
  • A realistic first person voice
  • Great moments of education about issues facing visually impaired people
  • Ableism (experienced by the MC)
  • Sexism, catcalling of an underage girl (experienced by the MC)

Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? Have you got an opinion on stuffed bird toys? Let me know!

7 comments:

  1. I literally just read this! I gave it nearly the same rating as you, 3.5 - 4. Agree with every single one of your points, lovely review!

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    1. Just wanted to say that it was funny that this book talked to much about coincidences, and then as soon as I finish reading this - your review pops to the top of my bloglovin' feed!

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    2. Now don't go reading too much into it, you'll drive yourself mad ;D
      Thank you!

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  2. Sounds really interesting! I've been wanting to read this for a while. I read Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red, Snow White, quite a while ago, & loved it, so I've been meaning to read more of his books.

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    1. You know, I'd heard of that one but I didn't realise it was the same author! I'll have to try picking up some of his other stuff.

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  3. Huh, this does sound really interesting. The only books I've ever read with blind POV characters were fantasy and the characters had other senses and things that made them, well, a lot less realistic. So the way this character mentions things like colors not having meaning to her and all, it's sounds like it'd be a great look into a different perspective.

    Re: the cover/blurb thing, on the one hand it's great when something like disability isn't mentioned because in that way it's portraying the characters as just people, but on the other hand there are readers specifically looking for these things, so yeah, it's important to include it for that reason.

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    1. It's interesting you mention a blind fantasy character considering in SINI Laureth thinks badly of blind characters that somehow use super-human like senses to almost "see".

      That's what I thought, but it definitely isn't my area so it's why I linked to the Disability in Kidlit article - I remembered having read that a while before reading this book and thinking how applicable it was.

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