Dana reviews Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak (Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 8, 2015, 352 pages. Released on audio November 3, 2015, 8 hrs 57 mins. Narrated by Michael Crouch)
Why I listened to this: The blurb of this book intrigued me. I’d say that 90% of what I read is m/m romance, but I do like to try to explore other stories. A story of a young man whose eyes are opened to extraordinary things including feelings for his long lost male best friend. It seemed like the perfect mix of themes that I love in a story. The fact that it is a Stonewall Awards Honor Book is the reason that I am reviewing it for this week’s Award Winners theme.
The captivating Stonewall Honor-winning novel of love, family, and ghosts of the past
Aidan Lockwood lives in a sleepy farming town, day after unremarkable day. But when Jarrod, his former best friend, suddenly moves back home, Aidan begins to see clearly for the first time—not only to feelings that go beyond mere friendship, but to a world that is haunted by the stories of his past. Visions from this invisible world come to him unbidden: a great-grandfather on the field of battle; his own father, stumbling upon an unspeakable tragedy; and a mysterious young boy, whose whispered words may be at the heart of the curse that holds Aidan’s family in its grip.
Now, Aidan must find his way between the past and the present to protect those he loves, and to keep the invisible world at bay.
I’ve found audiobooks to be a great way to get more reading (listening) done. I absolutely love the worlds that books can take you to, but hate to stop for household chores. Listening to Wonders of the Invisible World was just more convenient. The fact that the narrator had a very pleasant voice was a bonus. It was my first time listening to Michael Crouch and I would definitely listen to him again.
This story blew me away. I was curious by the description. I wondered why Jarrod’s appearance would open Aidan’s eyes and mind. Perhaps there was something special about Jarrod? Aidan seems like an ordinary young man, though a bit of a recluse. When a former best friend moves back to town Aidan can’t remember much about him. He starts to realize there is a lot missing from his memories. As he seeks to find what’s missing, he finds a world that he once knew has been hidden from him. Where magic and curses are real. Seeing is done with more than the eyes, and stories can be told that will change the world around you. The storytelling done by this author was mystical and fantastical and I felt like magic was being woven into my own life.
Now, I would recommend this story to someone who enjoyed Harry Potter, though I would warn that the magic isn’t quite the same. There are no wands or schools for learning spells. It is about the wondrous things around us. There are death legends and specters that, I think, would rival the story of the Deathly Hallows, though. In the midst of discovering his lost memories and viewing the pasts of his ancestors, Aidan also becomes aware of how he feels for his best friend Jarrod and the past they had together. I wouldn’t say the romance is a huge part of the story, because the curse put upon his family and his mother’s “story” seem to be at the forefront. However, the fact that Jarrod came back for Aidan, that he was able to show him there was more, makes their relationship very important.
There is a bit of tragedy in the story, The events that brought on the curse were awful. The deaths the curse brought on were unfair. I loved the bit of romance in a world that was flipped on it side. I loved the support the two young men showed each other. Because I had listened to this book before, I had to relisten before reviewing it, just to make sure I remembered all the details. I can foresee myself listening again and again, because that is how much I love it. It seems to me that this review is also kind of short for a book that I enjoyed that much, but I feel like less is more. I think that you should witness the magic of the story for yourself without too much input, or it will be spoiled. It should be clear, but I wholeheartedly recommend the book. If you are a fan of audios, give it a try because the narration just adds to the story.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – compares to 5/5 stars
Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Fantasy Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which has been made into the Sundance feature film Jamie Marks is Dead.
His second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Nebula Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award.
His most recent novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, was published by Knopf in 2015, and received the Stonewall Honor Award from the American Library Association.
He is also the author of two collections: Birds and Birthdays, a collection of surrealist fantasy stories, and Before and Afterlives, a collection of supernatural fantasies, which won Best Collection in the 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards.
Christopher grew up in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan, and has taught English outside of Tokyo, Japan, where he lived for two years. Currently he teaches fiction writing in the Northeast Ohio MFA program at Youngstown State University.