Monday, 26 August 2013

How to be Invisible

How to be Invisible by Tim Lott (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781406324235
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Tim Lott ventures away from his adult novel writing with this first Young Adult title, How to be Invisible.  It’s an outstanding novel with the same brilliance as his other writings, with his characters still as captivating as ever.

Strato Nyman is a gifted and talented thirteen year old boy who moves with his parents Melchior and Peaches from South London to Hedgecombe, a country village with a public school. Here a change comes over him. He walks with a slouch, he mumbles and chews things. He just doesn’t fit in and isn’t challenged intellectually.

Something has happened between the couple that is kept secret from the boy, and that something widens the already impossible-to-span chasm between the them. Verbal battles increase, so do lengthy silences. Melchior has left his job as a scientist and Peaches is working on a book which promises to be a best seller, but she refuses to tell Strato what it’s about. No one is happy.

Strato’s life becomes more complicated when he’s bullied by Lloyd Turnbull who has been in an accident resulting in a damaged and stunted arm that he’s obsessively self-conscious about. This bulling causes Strato to wag school and during one of his jaunts through the small town with thirty bookshops, he walks into a musty, darkened one, and picks up the book, How to be Invisible.

He wants to know about things other than physics and statistics about the universe, which consume his conversations. He wants to know why his parents are fighting, why Lloyd bullies him, who the school bus driver really is, and what secrets does his teacher Dr Ojebande hide.

He learns from the old tome how to make himself invisible and this makes up for his lack of visibility in life. He starts to get answers to his questions and this brings about great change to all the people involved when both good and bad secrets are revealed. But the greatest reveal is that ‘one thing can be two things at the same time’, proving things are never what they seem.

This is an interesting and quite unique book. A great deal of information used as backstory, revolves around the universe and its patterns, laws, and structures of which Lott uses in great detail to keep his main character in the spotlight. All the strings in this book are connected to one another in beautiful and fluid prose. The characters are outstanding; the messages are powerful and meaningful. This is a treasured read which will be revisited again.

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