I Remember You; A Review of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
I love reading books.
Books are, perhaps, my most favorite thing in the world.
But I don’t often write reviews about them; to me, books are personal, far more personal than movies or TV shows. While I love to watch stories unfold on the screen, I find that I live inside a good book while I’m reading it. Once I’m engrossed in the story, a part of my mind exists only for that book until I’ve finished it, and oftentimes, for far longer. And because I dive so deep into books, I often keep my thoughts on the book to myself; unless it’s a franchise that everyone is discussing, like Harry Potter, I tend to think of my reaction to a book to be a very personal thing. So even if I love a book, I usually don’t feel the need to write a review for it.
I also usually take my time with books; I don’t like to speed-read, nor do I like to skim the text to rush through it. If the book is good enough, I want to devour it, I want to consume every word and give it its due. So, even if I were to write a review of a good book, it likely would be much later than most other reviews, and that’s assuming I started reading the book the day it was released.
Such is the case for this review; I’m very late to the party when it comes to talking about this book. After all, V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue has been on my bookshelf since December of 2020. I always knew I wanted to read it, ever since I first heard that it was coming out; I’ve been a fan of Schwab’s for a few years now, ever since I read her Darker Shades of Magic series. I haven’t read every book she’s written, but I’ve loved every book of her’s that I’ve read. And so, from the first time I read the description, I knew that Addie LaRue was one of her books that I would want to read.
And when I got it, I did start to read it, managed to get three or four chapters in. But then I got distracted (probably by the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, which is one of the few book series that will prompt me to put down whatever I’m reading when the next volume is released), and I never got back to it. Frankly, I’ve been having trouble over the last few years getting into books, so there are many littering my shelves that I’m dying to read and yet haven’t gotten around to.
Cut to 2023; lately, I’ve been trying to make a point to read more, read constantly, read everything I’ve added to my shelves, especially for authors like Schwab who have consistently written some of my favorite books (if you haven’t yet, give her more recent story, Gallant, a try, I loved it too). I’m trying to make a point of always being in the middle of a book, always trying to devour a new story — after all, if you want to write books, you need to read them too.
After going back and forth with a few different titles — Wool by Hugh Howey, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and A Winter’s Promise by Cristelle Dabos are just a few of the titles that I’ve recently started and put down, but fully intend to get back to — I finally resolved to read Addie LaRue, because it has been sitting on my shelf the longest.
And it might just be the best book I’ve ever read.
The barest synopsis I can provide without giving too much away about the story is that it is a tale of a girl who sells her soul for freedom, to live until she no longer wants to anymore, but with that freedom and immortality comes a curse to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
And what follows is her story, spanning 300 years, as she copes with the curse, learns to live with it, manipulate it, as she lives through history and discovers the best — and worst — of humanity, and navigates the delicate, unending dance with the being that cursed her. It is a story of love, and loss, of hatred, and compassion, of being forgotten and being remembered.
It is heartbreaking. It is utterly devastating. And at the same time, it is triumphant, hopeful.
It calls to mind those we’ve loved — whether up close or from afar — who never knew, or who have forgotten or been forgotten. It perfectly articulates the experiences and emotions of depression, madness, grief, of betrayal, of not feeling enough, of not being remembered, but also those of falling in love — both the short romances and the love built over a lifetime — of finding your place, of telling your story.
It’s a book that produces its concept and then fully explores it in a way that you don’t feel like any stones were left unturned. And it keeps you hanging on every chapter, right up to the last sentence. By the end of the book, you know Addie LaRue, you know her intimately and thoroughly, you know her life and her story. You remember her — and you’ll remember her for a long time after you’ve finished reading.
I’ve loved every book that I’ve read from V.E. Schwab, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is different. This book is a masterpiece. This book is transcendent. Schwab writes with a deft hand, as if this isn’t simply a story she invented, but one she knows as well as if she’d lived it herself, or at least remembers the girl who told it to her. I’d say that this is Schwab’s magnum opus, but I know she’s far from finished writing books (The Fragile Threads of Power, the latest in the Darker Shades series, is due out in a week and I can promise this one I’ll read right away).
Wherever The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue ends up on the list of V.E. Schwab’s work, it has cemented its place on a very particular shelf in my mind, a shelf reserved for the very best books I’ve ever read. It sits comfortably with Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Cornelia Funke’s Fearless (now retitled to Reckless: Living Shadows).
And though I’m three years late on reading (and reviewing) Addie LaRue, the beauty of books is that they can be discovered at any time. Despite being mad that I didn’t read this sooner, I feel that I read it at precisely the right time for myself, at the time when the story would matter the most to me and resonate in my head to the point that I can’t even fathom beginning another book.
If you haven’t read this book yet, quite simply, go out and get it. Get it, put it on your shelf, and when you’re ready, read Addie’s story, and remember her.