Wednesday, March 24, 2021



Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Back in 2019, I attended a signing for Victoria Schwab where she did a Q&A panel beforehand, and I remember her mentioning that her current work-in-progress and the next book to be released from her would be called The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. She talked a bit about the story and said she’s been working on this book for many years and has put her whole heart into it. For some reason, I thought it was a middle-grade book, so I was very excited to learn later on that this is instead an adult fantasy!

You’ve probably heard the premise by now: Addie makes a deal with the devil to live forever but is cursed to be forgotten by everyone the moment she leaves their sight, putting a more literal twist on the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind.” That is until one day a boy remembers her.

I was completely sold by that short synopsis alone. I didn’t know anything more than that going into the story, and I recommend it that way.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a much more sweeping literary tale than Schwab’s previous works, containing only a dash of the fantastical rather than full-on magic. The beautiful, lyrical writing contributed to this too as it had a different feel than I’m used to from her. Addie always compares time to language and sentence structure: “That kiss, like a piece of long-awaited punctuation. Not the em dash of an interrupted line, or the ellipsis of a quiet escape, but a period, a closed parenthesis, an end. That is the thing about living in the present, and only the present, it is a run-on sentence.” (The fact that the sentence about life being a run-on sentence is itself a run-on sentence had me swooning because of how much I love words and the English language.) Passages like that give the book a very literary feeling, which was very fitting for this story. 

I was hooked right from the beginning. I’ve heard from others that the book starts out slow, but I didn’t find that to be the case whatsoever. I was drawn into Addie’s story in the early 1700s leading up to when she met the devil, interspersed with chapters of the present day in 2014 as you discover what her life is like now that she’s had so many years to figure it out.

I naturally preferred the present-day chapters more as I have found recently that I’m falling out of love with historical fiction, but both timelines still captivated me nonetheless . . . that is, until around page 80. From then on, I became uninterested in the chapters from 1700s France and other times and places in the past, looking forward to reading about Addie in present-day New York instead. The historical chapters at this point turned downright depressing and I simply didn’t want to read them: I really didn’t like seeing Addie sell her body for money when she doesn’t even need food to stay alive. Her promiscuity continues throughout the years, which I also didn’t enjoy reading about, but that first moment when she brands herself as a prostitute was horrible. 

I enjoyed Addie as a character other than that. She’s often motivated entirely by selfish reasons but I still managed to like her despite that. If I ever reread this book though, I will probably read only the present-day chapters and skip all of the chapters set in the past because I honestly just didn’t enjoy or care about them. 

I liked Henry well enough also. The typical quiet good guy. Addie is much more dynamic than him, but I think that’s the point. After the halfway point of the book, we start getting flashback chapters from Henry’s past of just six months ago. Although this wasn’t historical by any means, I started to feel about Henry’s past chapters that I felt about Addie’s chapters set in the 1700s. I really was only interested in the present-day chapters about Addie, or Addie with Henry. Everything else kind of dragged in my opinion. I’ve seen a lot of criticism that this book has very uneven pacing and I can really feel that.

I kind of guessed the twist. Back in the middle of part two when Henry first tells Addie that he remembers her I had an inkling of a thought, a reason why that might be, but I brushed it aside. But then Henry’s short chapter at the very end of part two, the way he smiled at the end, I returned to my earlier hypothesis about Henry, all the while begging the book to take a different route, that I would be wrong, because I knew if I was right then I would be ruined. While I wasn’t exactly right, I did guess some part of the truth. (Read the spoiler section at the end to hear my theories.) 

This book did not turn out quite how I expected it to. I can’t say for sure what, but it feels like something is missing from the narrative. Addie makes a big impact on and has commentary about art throughout history, but she doesn’t say anything about all the other historical events taking place. I know it’s hard to know in the moment that history is taking place, but I guess I still expected to hear more about it. She briefly mentions a war, the advent of color television, airplanes, but again, I just wanted more. 

I really did like the art aspect of the book though. There’s a heavy focus on the idea that there is always something to live for, so much beauty in the world yet to be seen and experiences yet to be lived. I thought that was a nice underlying tone to an otherwise darker narrative. 

Addie LaRue was one of my must-read books of 2021, and I’m so glad I got to it early on in the year. Overall, I quite enjoyed it and I ultimately recommend it, even though it’s not quite what I expected. I love Victoria Schwab and I will read anything she writes. This wasn’t my favorite book of hers, but I still think it tells an important story worth reading. I can’t wait to see what story she comes out with next.

I have a lot of thoughts related to the plot and reveals of the story, so I have separated them out in a SPOILERS section below:

I had two possible theories about why Henry could remember Addie: 1) Henry was actually the devil in disguise. Both Henry and Luc have curly black hair and green eyes. Only the devil could remember Addie, so that would still be the case if Henry is actually the devil, and only the devil can say Addie’s name until she meets Henry. Plus at one of Luc’s visits to Addie soon after she made the deal with him, he tells her that of course he made it a hard life for her, because if she’s going to give her soul to him when she doesn’t want it anymore, then he’s going to make her want to give it up sooner. So I thought that Luc had been planning for hundreds of years for a way to get Addie’s soul at last and decided to pretend to be Henry to make Addie fall in love with him so when he finally revealed himself she’d be devastated enough to finally either give up her soul or follow him into the afterlife. Or, 2) Henry also made a deal with the devil. I thought maybe it was a deal to remember everything and therefore he was able to remember Addie.

The first guess was my primary thought, but the second guess turned out to be the truth, in part. Interestingly enough though, when I explained the story’s synopsis and my theories to my husband, he had two theories of his own: 1) Henry was the devil’s child and is therefore exempt from the effects of any deals he makes with others, thus making him able to remember Addie. Or, 2) Henry also made a deal with the devil, but his deal was that everyone will see what they want when they look at him. I am not kidding here, my husband guessed the correct answer without even having read the book!

I do think it is very interesting that both Henry and Addie suffered very similar curses. No one is able to see the true Henry, while no one is able to remember the true Addie. The whole time, they both just want to be seen. It’s also worth noting that when Luc showed up to offer the deal to each of them, both Addie and Henry were in a vulnerable and emotionally charged state, not allowing either of them to make the most rational decision at that moment. Leave it to the devil to take advantage of the situation and come out with the better bargain while the people he made the deal with were left with dissatisfaction and regret.

I ended up being surprised by and really loving the ending. I think the first 80 pages of the book and the last 60 pages of the book are the most interesting, while the middle section is slower and not as engaging. The ending had me genuinely excited though! Some friends have told me that they cried during the ending, but I was only smiling. When Addie gets Luc to agree to the new deal, and how she’s making him play her game on her terms now, I loved that. And how Henry publishes Addie’s story as a book called The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, so now everyone can remember her after all, I loved that so much. I had a suspicion when he first started writing down her story that it was going to turn into a book-within-the-book of the same title, and I was right. The whole ending was my favorite part of the entire story. 

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