Every once in a while, when you sit down to read a book, you come away feeling in some way changed. 

Perhaps you wipe away a tear at the outcome, perhaps you feel that you’ve been seen or understood, perhaps you discover characters you never want to let go, a story world you’re not yet ready to leave.

With The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I felt all of the above (albeit, the aesthetic singular tear was more of a cascade of less-than-attractive sobs).

The novel is V.E. Schwab’s first standalone fantasy and t is a tale worlds apart from her popular works such as Vicious and the Shades of Magic series. This is a quiet, whimsical, sweeping tale of a girl who one day makes a deal with the devil to live forever… and is cursed to be forgotten by all those she encounters.

What follows is the tale of Addie LaRue that spans centuries and continents. The novel questions what it means to live; is it the marks you leave behind? Your legacy? It explores the messiness that is being human and all the wonders of art in its various forms. 

One of the standout aspects of this book for me was Schwab’s writing. She seamlessly balances accessibility with beautiful prose, avoiding pretension and overly-flowering description with ease. Learning she started out writing poetry was no surprise to me because there really is a poetic ring to the vivid images that she paints of 18th century France and modern-day New York. 

Despite its fantastical elements, I was hard-pressed to find a theme that didn’t resonate with me. This book was comfort; a warm hug of understanding and reassurance on a rainy night; it was heartbreak and love; it was adventure and defiance. It was everything I love in a novel; authentic, diverse characters, a beating heart of humanity despite its fantasy genre, and wonderful pockets of wisdom I have picked up and squirreled away to keep forever. 

It is a special kind of feeling to find a new favourite—whether it be a film, artist, piece of clothing or a book. Finding this new favourite may have left me sobbing as I read Schwab’s final words, but it also left me with a feeling of hopeful, tentative joy: that for all of our flaws we should keep our faith, that life can be tough but so incredibly beautiful, that books really are the closest we will get to magic. 

Hetta Johnson

Hetta Johnson (she/her) is a contributing writer and Junior Editor for Cultures at The Oxford Blue. She is in her second year reading English Language and Literature at Worcester College and, when not wandering Oxford or with her nose in a book, can be found in the countryside of Northamptonshire.