Book Review: “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab

Addie LaRue is stuck in a loop. For the pandemic reader, Addie’s loop is a delicious escape from our own daily repetitions. She isn’t tied to her cell phone, the indoors, a demanding family, or a mind-numbing work-from-home job. Addie isn’t tied to anything at all—at least, no thing we would consider real. She has the kind of freedom most people only dream of: the freedom to travel widely, eat delicious food, wear the latest fashions, learn a dozen languages, attend symphonies and exhibitions, and mingle with the great minds of modern history. But, V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale, and freedom comes at an extraordinary price.

Discovering the confines of Addie’s curse is what makes this a book worth reading, so I won’t spoil the details. The main character starts with almost nothing—except youth, beauty, and artistic talent—and, over three grueling centuries, she manages to enjoy the finest things in life. Despite the power her curse brings, Addie faces hurdles familiar to any hardy heroine. Without money, family, or reputation, she has to beg, borrow, sell, and steal her way into the upper reaches of society, which seems to be the best place to find food, warmth, and comfort. She has help, but help comes at a price too. Addie prefers to rely on her own wits and willfulness. Ever the optimist, her singular goal is to make a real impact on the world.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is V.E. Schwab’s newest book. The stand-alone novel is a departure from the author’s usual habit of writing series, which include the Shades of Magic series for adults, The Archived series for young adults, and the City of Ghosts series for middle grade readers. 

Read this book if you are interested in how people relate to each other, have a passing interest in art history, or dream of traveling to familiar places in unfamiliar times. Read it for the story more than the writing. Be forewarned: Henry, who we meet in the second act, is little more than a plot device with a sad fatal flaw. You may come away from the fantasy with more questions than answers. But if you’re yearning to go on a journey, meet new people, or commiserate with another lonely heart, this might be the book for you.

Review by Jill Piekut Roy, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian

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