The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Rating: 5 Stars
Author: V.E Schwab
“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling on them, take head: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”
I like V.E Schwab books. Enough so that I’ve almost read her entire bibliography but, generally they are solid 4 star books for me. Great plot, interesting magic systems/ concepts but generally fall short in pacing or relatability in characters.
But, Addie LaRue is by far the exception to this.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was everything I wanted in a grim modern fairy tale. It is whimsical, intriguing, heartbreaking and so fucking perfect.
“…it is sad, of course, to forget. But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten. To remember when no one else does.”
What drew to me to first pick up this book was the premise. The concept of living forever, never aging, never getting sick, but the second you are out of sight you quite literally are out of mind was intriguing.
How on earth could you even survive if everyone forgot you the second they leave the room or fall asleep? It would be such a lonely existence, not to mention the practicalities such as finding shelter or getting food.
And Addie was able to meet each of these challenges and not only survive but thrive. From becoming an expert thief, to a world class liar, and a master at navigating the loopholes of the curse she endures, Addie leaves her mark on the world.
The plot is very well written and switches between Modern time (2014 New York) and Adddie’s 300 year journey to the present. The flashbacks are well written and condensed enough to make you feel like you lived all the important moments of her past but not too much detail that you want to slam your head against a wall.
I had a very easy time relating to the two main characters, Addie and Henry, which usually is the hardest aspect for me in a V.E Schwab book.
The book is told primarily in Addie’s perspective (I mean the book is literally called the Invisible Life if Addie LaRue), but about a third of the way through the book another perspective is introduced, Henry.
Henry, is a modern, in his late 20’s New Yorker who seems ordinary enough until he somehow remembers Addie.
Without spoiling too much, I found Henry’s perspective and struggles of depression to be extremely accurate with my own experiences and written in a way that accurately portrays the thought spirals that take place.
While reading this book I switched between reading the physical copy and listening to the audiobook (it was a book I had a really hard time putting down). The audiobook was fantastic and I thought the narrator, Julia Whelan, did a great job voice acting both Addie’s and Henry’s section.
Overall, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is my favorite V.E Schwab novel to date and is a perfect read for anyone looking for a grim modern fairy tale.
For a closer look and my spoilery thoughts about the book you can see the spoiler section below and to find what I’m currently reading and other book recommendations go here.
If you have already read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (or just like spoilers like me) read below where I will break down the book in an in depth spoiler filled review and then discuss as I would if it were a book club meeting over coffee (or tea if you are classy like me).
In Depth Review
This section will go over some points I touched on in my spoiler free review but, expanded more addressing some spoilers in the story.
Premise, Concepts, and Themes
As I mentioned in my spoiler free review. The premise is what ultimately drew me to the book and is my overall favorite aspect of the story.
Living forever but being forgotten every time you are out of site is very unique.
Like there are a lot of books or films that have characters who are either immortal or long lived; Age of Adeline, The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August, etc.
But none of them have the added obstacle of being completely forgotten.
Which was very unique and extremely well executed.
I also really liked how Schwab used the value of perseverance (or grit) as the overall theme for this book. It was a really fitting theme for someone who lives centuries, but also fit in really nicely for Henry who struggled with depression.
It really illustrated how the bravest thing a person can do is continue on. Continue on past pain, loneliness, self hatred, depression, and all the other demons that haunt our steps.
Characters and Development Arcs
Usually this is the section that really dampens a V.E. Schwab book for me.
For some reason in all her other books (Shades of Magic, Villains, and Monsters of Verity series) I like the characters but I never get emotionally connected to them.
I don’t feel invested in them and I care more about the story as a whole rather than the individual.
But this book, that wasn’t the case.
Pretty much right off the bat I LOVED Addie. I wanted her to have freedom and not be trapped in her small village. I wanted her to see the world and live without restraints. And when she was cursed and forced to whore herself out and was forgotten by each person she tried to love it was heartbreaking.
And Henry was the same. Henry was someone that never felt “enough”. Never felt like he was a good enough son, sibling, friend, boyfriend, etc. And he was so sick of failing and each failure left him more and more broken.
I got that on a very deep level.
I empathised immensely with both characters and was really invested in their story arcs (and was ultimately pleased with both).
Adeline’s character was static but proves why static characters can be beneficial to a storyline (especially when they are written so wonderfully).
She retained her zest for discovery, love of art, and her determination to be free of any and all constraints (here is a giant huzzah to her outmaneuvering of Luc at the end).
Her character was constant and really showcased why certain attributes (namely perseverance) are such healthy traits to have.
Henry on the other hand dynamic. His character went from never feeling enough to finally achieving some measure of inner peace.
Prose, Dialogue, and Style
The prose in this book is very lyrical and could easily be labeled as “purple” however, it just worked.
It really integrated well with the concept of a more modern fairytale.
So while normally I would be annoyed at the lyricism, it worked in this book.
I immediately felt like I entered into a fairytale and it kept the mood a perfect balance between enchanting and haunting.
World and Atmosphere
Since this book is more of a modern fairytale it falls more under the umbrella of “Urban Fantasy” rather than “High Fantasy”.
So the main goal the author had was creating a believable fantasy miniverse that could run alongside both France in the 1600s and New York in the 2000.
And Schwab succeeded.
The concept of “old gods” that give both blessings and curses was really well executed and how that magic affected the mortal realm was tastefully down.
Plot and Execution
The plot in this book was perfection (have I said perfection or fantastic too much yet??).
The beginning eases you in without info dumping then slowly builds as you watch how Addie got cursed, learned to navigate the curse, and ultimately gets the upper hand.
At no point did I feel bored or uninterested. The only complaint I could have would be I want MORE.
And not more, because it left me with questions unanswered.
But more because I didn’t want the book to end and I couldn’t say goodbye to Henry or Addie.
What does the book’s title mean within the context of the story
Since Addie is forgotten by everyone she comes into contact with she is essentially invisible.
Her life is lived on a trajectory completely different than everyone else and and it really asks that fundamental question Addie asks herself, if she is forgotten is she still alive?
I also love that the cover (the US cover, I’m not sure about the other editions) has the stars that her freckles are supposed to be reminiscent of.
Which to me, the imagery of her constellation like freckles are a metaphor on fate. Since fate used to be a thing divined in the stars, can you take fate into your own hands and change your destiny or are you doomed to live the fate the stars gave you?
And Addie, was a girl who was always determined to own her fate. So, so to speak she was not destined to have her fortune be in the sky to be divined by anyone but her. So her stars are born on her face for her to determine fate, controls the trajectory of her own life, and ultimately to live with both its blessings and curses.
What was the most memorable moment from this book?
The ENDING. Oh my god that ENDING was so freaking perfect. That line where she talks about spending 300 years learning colors of Luc’s eyes and his moods but him never bothering to learn hers and if he had he would have seen her laugh for she finally outsmarted him, SO BADASS. I loved it.
I mean I kind of low key liked her and Luc’s relationship (obviously it wasn’t healthy and Addie and Henry were perfect together) but something about their interactions together and the conflict of Luc having cursed Addie made their relationship intriguing.
And since Luc ALWAYS had the upper hand (being god kind of helped) it was so rewarding when Addie finally got the upper hand.
I also really liked the scenes where you see how Addie circumvented her curse and left a mark on the world by becoming a muse to different artists throughout centuries. In particular that scene where she hears the song she and Toby co-wrote throughout their brief relationship.
What are your thoughts on the perspective(s) that drive the story?
Both perspectives were essential and ultimately created a well rounded and well balanced book.
Addie’s probably was my favorite perspective to read simply because hers was more intriguing (I mean she did live 300 years trying to outmanuver the devil… pretty hard to bet that).
But I could relate more to Henry. So in a way his character and perspective was very grounding and really helped contribute to an authentic atmosphere of fantasy and reality.
Which theme do you feel the author was most interested in communicating to readers?
Probably the importance of grit. That stubbornness, the unwillingness to give up despite the odds, the ability to push through even with life is really fucking shitty is the best take away from the novel.
In Addie’s case it was surviving the centuries as a giant fuck you to Luc, doing anything she could to survive (that scene in her first year of the curse where the only thing she could do was whore was particuarly hard to read), finding loopholes in the curse to leave her mark on the world, and finding those moments of joy despite the loneliness of being forgotten.
Or in Henry’s case, it was the struggle of finding grit while being overwhelmed by depression. Learning how to accept not being enough and moving forward and finding the things in life that make you happy.
Did you find the ending satisfying? Why or why not?
The ending was satisfying and perfectly bittersweet.
We know that Addie has finally got an advantage on Luc for the first time in centuries. Henry has found a state of contentment in life. And Addie’s life story has now been shared and she will no longer live completely forgotten.
So the ending did a fantastic job tying up all the loose ends.
But, I really liked Henry and Addie’s relationship and it was heartbreaking that once both of them felt complete they were torn away from each other.
So a perfect realistic ending, where you want to say “where is the happy ending these character’s deserve” but know that this is the ending they need for the story to feel genuine.