#11. Things Not Seen

I’ve learned a few things after reading YA fiction over the last two months. The first thing is not to trivialize. The kids that I am reading about have real issues – issues that are real to them anyhow, and it doesn’t score me any points to dismiss their feelings or their reactions. It doesn’t do to dismiss books because they’re not literary enough either, because I’ve found that I can enjoy a book just as much for its plot as for its beautiful sentences. I’ve been kidding myself sitting on a high horse and looking down on “pop” fiction. So long as a book moves me in some way, that book is worth reading. This realization has been profound for me.

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements is a book about a fifteen-year old boy who wakes up one morning, looks in the bathroom mirror and finds that he cannot see himself. That’s an intriguing enough start to a story, no? Well, Bobby and his parents (after the initial mind-numbing shock) try to find a logical solution to the problem. If Bobby is invisible, something must have caused it, and what is that something? How do they fix it? Along the way, Bobby meets Alicia, a blind girl, with whom he decides to share his secret. Alicia tells her parents. Together, Bobby and Alicia and their parents try to figure out a solution to Bobby’s problem.

What is particularly fascinating about this book is the fact that the author treats Bobby’s invisibility like it is a legitimate real-world problem. There are no super-powers or aliens or wizards. The puzzle is eventually solved by old-fashioned sleuthing and some cold, hard logic. Additionally, the story underneath the story is just as intriguing. What happens when a girl who cannot see the world and a guy the world cannot see get together? What can the two teach each other about loneliness and friendship?

This book takes an interesting premise and carries it through successfully, managing to throw in a few good lessons for teenagers who feel that they are not really being seen or heard. The language is not exactly exciting, but it is very readable – I, for one, read the book through in one sitting. It’s a good enough way to pass the time, and it has taught me one or two things about how to write YA fiction.

2.8 stars

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