The first thing you need to know before diving into this review is that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue became my favorite book of 2020, and very possibly my favorite book of all times.
I apologize beforehand for any gushing, fangirling and rambling you might see throughout this post, but as I was nearing the end of Addie, I knew that making a review of it wasn’t going to be an easy task. How does one write a review that lives up to the masterpiece that this book was in my eyes? I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my reviews so I know I won’t be quite happy with the final result of this one, but just know that I’ll try my best to convince you that this book right here is pure gold and you should give it a try.
Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: October 6th, 2020
Page count: 448
Trigger warnings: Attempted assault, abuse depiction, loss of a loved one, substance abuse, depression depiction, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide.
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue follows the story of Addie, a girl from the XVII century whose biggest fear is to have an unremarkable life, to wither and die just as everyone else does, without seeing or experiencing half of the things they wanted. Desperate, she makes a deal with the devil (or the darkness, if you prefer), who grants her to be immortal, but curses her to never be remembered by anyone. In general, that’s the main premise of the book, but Addie is so much more than that. It’s a reflection on life and death and more than anything, of time.
“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was Schwab’s prose. I lost count of the amount of quotes I highlighted (probably more than 50?? Anyways it was A LOT). The author has a magical way of bringing the story to life, and you can’t help but wanting to treasure every word. This book doesn’t let any of its 448 pages go to waste: every single event, interaction and decision adds up to the growth of the three main characters: Addie, Henry and Luc. The reader travels through three hundred years of story, but it never gets confusing or heavy, on the contrary, the pages go by flying.
The role art plays in this story is just magnificent. In Addie LaRue, art is a powerful movement that might even outplay superior (or inferior) beings. It is, maybe, a different kind of magic, and I loved to see Addie using that to her advantage to be remembered and leave her mark in the world somehow. The only thing I didn’t like from this particular aspect of the story was how each legendary person that ever lived owed something to the darkness in order to achieve big things in life. The whole “without evil, there’s no power” message was definitely negative.
Despite being a book mainly centered in the three main characters and nothing else, I wasn’t bothered by this. It’s true that the story as we know it is there, but lingering in the background, and if it wasn’t that way I think it wouldn’t have been possible to get such an amazing story (at least not with this plot). There are books where the main element is the plot, and there are books where the main elements are the characters, and this is definitely the latter. It doesn’t make much sense to focus on what’s happening around Addie when those secondary characters only play a very short role on the book, and the years get blurry because of Addie’s immortality.
“Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades…. Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end… everyone wants to be remembered.”
I saw some readers complain about the lack of BIPOC representation and how Addie didn’t travel to non-Western countries. I agree it was wrong, especially when the story extends through three-hundred years of story; it’s unrealistic that Addie only visited Italy, France, England and USA.
Addie became one of my favorite characters of all times. The book shows us her growth (which is huge through the years), and how she’s slowly ripped from her humanity, but never entirely. In Addie, we see a strong, smart, brave and irremediably independent woman. The author focuses on her more than anyone else, however, the story is told in third-person, as someone who tells a story that already happened and knows exactly how it’ll end. I can’t help but think this was on purpose, as Addie can’t create anything herself or leave her own mark, she couldn’t even tell her own story to the reader.
Henry is a character that leaves a feeling nostalgia and pain on the reader, however, he’s very sweet and one of those characters you just want to protect no matter what. He’s brutally real, his emotions transcend the page, and it might be because we can all identify with his pain and fragility, even if it’s just a bit.
“Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?”
Luc is one of the best written characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s like a mix of Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses and Cardan from The Cruel Prince, but with an even darker twist. You never get to know him entirely; he’s intriguing and complex, with different shades and contradictions to his person. He’s smart, lethal and cruel, but he goes beyond that. Luc is beyond being just your average evil character. His little tricky good deeds with Addie don’t go unnoticed, and he’s as responsible of making this book memorable as Addie is.
This book will break your heart and mend it back dozens of times. Undoubtedly, there are going to be many different opinions about this book, but one thing is for sure: it won’t leave whoever reads it indifferent. It’s filled with strong emotions and powerful messages. Addie is art, is an untamed idea, it’s the conviction that there’s always a way to leave a mark, it’s the premise that time is the most precious and valuable thing we can have in this world, not how much of it we have, but how we use it to leave our signature, something that says “I lived”.
And oh, boy, Addie lived. V.E Schwab you are a genius.
“No, Adeline has decided she would rather be a tree, like Estele. If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky. Better that than firewood, cut down just to burn in someone else’s hearth.”
“What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.”
“Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives -or to find strength in a very long one.”
“I am stronger than your god and older than your devil. I am the darkness between stars, and the roots beneath the earth. I am promise, and potential, and when it comes to playing games, I divine the rules, I set the pieces, and I choose when to play. And tonight, I say no.”
“She tries not to think about that -she swears sometimes her memory runs forward as well as back, unspooling to show the roads she’ll never get to travel. But that way lies madness, and she has learned not to follow.”
“And it is sad, of course, to forget. But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten. To remember when no one else does.”
“A secret kept. A record made. The first mask she left upon the world, long before she knew the truth, that ideas are so much wilder than memories, that they long and look for ways of taking root.”
“You know” she’d said, “they say people are like snowflakes, each one unique, but I think they’re more like skies. Some are cloudy, some are stormy, some are clear, but no two are ever quite the same.”
“Memories are stiff, but thoughts are freer things. They throw out roots, they spread and tangle, and come untethered from their source. They are clever, and stubborn, and perhaps -perhaps- they are in reach.”
“Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.”
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts about it? Let’s talk in the comments!