So let me start by saying that this book was not on my previous reading list. I have bumped a book I’ve already read for this book (sorry The Outsiders, I still love you!). I wanted to keep a list of books that I’ve never read before to keep the reviews going from a fresh perspective. Anyways, here we go!
Hautman, Pete. Invisible. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2005. 160 p. 0689869037.
Genre: Fiction/ Realistic Fiction
Invisible tells the story of a boy named Doug Hanson who is a freak. The girl he likes calls him a worm and people in general just avoid him, except his best friend, Andy Morrow. Andy is the total opposite of Doug, he’s popular, a football star, and an overall nice guy. He calls Doug his best friend and Doug does the same. And they talk about everything together — except what happened at the Tuttle place years ago. When he’s not with Andy, Doug builds a model of a bridge based on the Golden Gate bridge for his huge model railroad, the Madham Line, filled with plastic people, fake trees, shrubs, etc.; this is the only place where he is able to escape. But when things get worse and the more “disturbed” Doug gets, Doug burrows deeper into his own world as hidden secrets come to light and they are no longer invisible. And Doug is no longer able to get a grip on reality.
I will just say this now. This book will give you feels. What is interesting about this book and what I really enjoyed but others might be confused about is that it’s told entirely from Doug’s perspective. When he’s confused, you’re confused and when he’s going out of his mind, you bet you are too. That being said, you must be aware that Doug is spiraling in a whirlwind that is out of his control and his sanity is up in the air. He is a teen struggling with mental illness but his specific mental illness is not addressed in this book. That’s up to you to figure out but I don’t think that’s really what’s very significant. One thing that was brought to my attention while reading this book was the lack of respect and significance that is brought upon a person once they are labeled as “unstable”, especially as a teenager. There are a number of times when Doug’s opinions are brushed aside or ignored when his parents are discussing what to do with his future and this made me think about how many teens are out there right now struggling with mental illness but are essentially “mute” in the ways that they express themselves. Their inner demons are able to take advantage of this and silence what they have to say or even the fact that they are struggling. What was also highlighted in this book was Doug’s therapist as she just noted certain things that Doug said that spoke about this mental condition and did not seem very convincing on a personal level. And she wrote him prescriptions when things got bad, hoping that his mental illness would become better without really seeking what Doug had to say about his experiences. And so what I didn’t expect was my complete empathy I was faced with after reading this book. I felt such empathy for Doug and his sufferings because no-one really cared what he had to say and as a reader going through the novel with him, his difficulties become your difficulties and the struggles he goes through feel personal. And so, in a sense, you feel invisible with him and when he’s with Andy, you see another side of Doug that isn’t really explored when he’s with his family or by himself. There is also a twist at the end that I kind of predicted but it still hit me hard nonetheless. I read some reviews on this book, which I don’t normally do but I was curious of other people’s thoughts. And some people were confused on some of Doug’s actions, the way he expresses himself, his thoughts, etc. and while he does have some questionable motives and thoughts, this all points back to his mental illness and also just the way he thinks. I realize that there’s a lot that I’m leaving out because there’s a lot that connects to the twist at the end, so I don’t want to spoil much! So, if you are interested in reading this book, be prepared to have an open mind, as you should while reading all books.
I would teach this book to a class to raise awareness for teen mental health because I know there’s a lot of kids who can relate to Doug and maybe those who cannot at all which is understandable too but I think this book also opens minds to the fact that there are people around them struggling with mental illness. I was thinking I would maybe incorporate how his model train and bridge reflect his mental health. There are moments in the book where Doug is drawing a sigil for Andy and himself and so I would also encourage students to draw their own sigil and create a specific meaning for it. And the class and I can talk about Doug’s mental illness and how this has shaped his perspective for so long.
I hope you all enjoyed this book review. Next book to be reviewed is…. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart!