Should ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ get a Hugo?

No? Of all the books I’ve read so far on my quest to predict 2021’s Hugo winner this is the book I’ve enjoyed the least.

Now this will perhaps be something of a hot take as this book seems to be universally loved by fans and critics alike. It’s a bestseller in the New York Times, USA Today, National Indie, and Washington Post.

WaPo calls it a “Genre-defying tour de force” in their article: V.E. Schwab delivers another compulsively readable novel with ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’

Gary K. Wolfe over at Locus believes that “. . . most readers will fall in love with Addie as fully as Schwab herself has. And, well, she is pretty cool.(here’s the link to the Locus review)

And there are probably about a million other reviews online from major publications and small blogs like my own that would agree with those sentiments and have come up with their own ways to put their love of Addie into words.

I don’t want to take away from that. Live your joy. I will not try to deny that there was plenty to love in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (in fact, I’m going to start my review by listing the things I did like about the book because I think that is generally more useful, and if you are only gonna read so far you might as well learn about the good things) . . .

But this book wasn’t that for me.

**slight spoilers ahead**

(I’ve never done a spoiler warning on this blog before I don’t think. It was kinda fun!)

Fine, What Were the Good Things?

This quote:

“Freedom is a pair of trousers and a buttoned coat.”

Pg 163 (you know what book we’re talking about)

I was only slightly sad that she didn’t point out the joy of pockets. Now you may say, “What do you know of this? You’re a man.” Indeed, but I have talked to women before and occasionally they talk back. Sooner or later, they all mention pockets.

Needless to say this book is filled with gender commentary like that, whether it be in the little things like the clothes Addie is and isn’t allowed to wear (and what she feels able to get away with since she won’t be remembered), or one of the overarching themes of love and possession (aka abusive relationships). I especially enjoyed the way the book’s bi and queer relationships were in full view of the reader without any subtlety (or apology). They are simply a part of the world, and this is as it should be.

I also thought the main premise was intriguing and put something new (at least to me) on the themes and considerations of immortality.

And of course, the prose are expertly written.

Good. Good.

So what gives?

For me, two things mainly. The first: little or no sense of wonder beyond Addie’s original meeting with The Darkness. And second? Paaaacccciiinnnggg.

For the first, it is useful to think of WaPo’s review of ‘genre-defying’. Typically, this kind of sentiment is seen as an achievement, but I felt that in the case of Addie LaRue (randomly italicized because I thought it sounded like a mystery title), it was the book’s biggest weakness. A music venue in an abandoned subway tunnel is perhaps the most spectacle we get after establishing our MC’s curse.

I wanted more.

For the second, we have these short little chapters, which alternate between past episodes in Addie’s Life, and her “present” in 2014 (it was super interesting to read why Schwab chose to set the novel before 2016). At first, the short and punchy prose make these snippets fly by, and we feel like we’re running through the book instead of reading it. But after 50 such portions (and 3 parts!) we’re only halfway through the novel. I’ll admit, I had started typing up this post at that point, thinking I was going to put the book down.

By the halfway mark, Luc (the villain) didn’t really seem all that consequential. He sort of just shows up randomly which I guess could be stressful on its own but we don’t really have the full context yet though we think we do. We’ve seen a lot of Addie by this point, but all we know is that she’s proud, somewhat selfish, and suffering a whole bunch because of one bad move a long time ago. Whatever is going on with Henry is still a mystery.

Now, all of these things do get wrapped up and threaded together by the end (in a way that I’m still unsure whether or not is satisfying), but here too, we run into the constant stop-start, of these tiny chapters. By the last fifty pages, I just wanted everything to happen already.

Perhaps this is just me though . . .

So Hugo?

I don’t doubt this one will be a contender, but if it makes the finals (which it very well may given how popular the author and this book seem to be), it will not be the one I vote for. I enjoyed the premise and the way the story delivered its messaging, but I was really missing that sense of wonder, and on a more practical point, I almost put the book down because of the pacing . . . if I had then there would have been no chance for me to see all the things I ended up enjoying about the book, and that is definitely a problem.

Thanks all. Hope you found this review useful! Sorry it was a bit of a downer.

Please skin me alive, leave your thoughts in the comments! Until next time . . .

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