Thursday, November 26, 2009

Invisible I: So Fun, So Clever, I Wish I'd Written It Myself

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Have you ever read a book so fun, so imaginative, so clever that you wish you'd written it yourself? That's pretty much how I feel about invisible i, the first book in Stella Lennon's new series (I'm definitely book-crushing over here). If you haven't heard of Lennon, there's a good reason: she doesn't exist. The name encompasses a group of YA authors (including Laurie Faria Stolarz and Peter Silsbee) who will alternate writing the books in this series. Invisible i is by Melissa Kantor, who's penned popular YA novels like If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? (my review is here) and Confessions of a Not-It Girl. Its September debut launched a unique, interactive fiction experience called The Amanda Project. Readers can follow the mystery in the books, then hop online for more clues, puzzles and fun. But, I'm getting ahead of myself ...

Invisible i concerns Callie Leary, one of the ninth grade's popular I-girls. Even though she doesn't consider herself model-beautiful like her friends, she's somehow part of their very in group. They can talk about everything - clothes, makeup, cute guys - well, everything except what's really important, like the fact that Callie's world is falling apart. How can she admit, even to her best friends, that her mom took off and her dad's drinking himself into a daily stupor? How can she tell the group, at least one of whom lives in a sprawling McMansion in the best community in town, that she's afraid she'll come home to no electricity, no food, no house? They wouldn't understand.

When Callie's summoned into the vice principal's office, she receives a shock: her friend, Amanda Valentino, is missing. As if that isn't strange enough, Amanda decided to spray paint the vice principal's car, implicate three other students (including Callie) in the prank, then disappear without a trace. Callie thought nothing about Amanda could surprise her - after all, the girl wore outrageous costumes, couldn't speak without quoting something, worked math problems like some kind of genius, and flitted around at all hours without any parental supervision whatsoever - but this really takes the cake. The weird thing is, as Callie and her supposed cohorts clean the paint off the VP's car, they all come to the same conclusion: Amanda must be trying to send them a message. But figuring out what that message is becomes a strange, frustrating quest. Is it possible that none of them really knew her at all? Clearly, the question they should be asking is not "Where is Amanda," but "Who is Amanda?" Clues keep appearing out of nowhere, but they don't seem to be leading anywhere.

As the search for Amanda consumes Callie, she knows she has to keep her interest hidden from the I-Girls. They would never understand her friendship with Amanda, a girl they'd quickly labeled "freak," and they definitely wouldn't get her desire to play Nancy Drew with super nerds Hal Bennett and Nia Rivera. The more Callie searches for her friend, the more she realizes how much she misses the free spirit who, she's realizing, made a huge impact on her life. Along with Hal and Nia, she's determined to answer the big questions: Who is Amanda Valentino? Where has she gone? What does she want from Callie, Hal and Nia? And most important of all: If she needs help, why doesn't she just ask?

I've been wracking my brain for anything I didn't like about this book and well, I got nothin'. The plot gallops along at a perfect pace with plenty of curves and cliffs to keep it exciting. It's not all action, though - the story has a surprising amount of depth. It delves into the importance of being true to oneself, not being too quick to judge, and looking behind the mirages so often created by wealth and popularity. All of the characters, even the most minor ones, come off as complex and intriguing. The author creates a very real, very absorbing story that just gets everything right. Kantor's got me dying to know: Who is Amanda Valentino? Sequel, come quick!

(To learn more about The Amanda Project, check out its website. You can get additional clues, hang out with other Amanda devotees, even write your own stories [some of which will be published in the subsequent books or in an online 'zine]. I don't know if I like the idea of story people hopping out of their books and into my computer, but it's an interesting concept. You'll definitely want to check it out. Oh, but read the book first - you'll be glad you did!)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild language and a teensy bit of innuendo

To the FTC, with love: This is another gem from HarperTeen. Thanks, guys!

6 comments:

  1. I love the title! There has been a few times that I have felt this way. What a good feeling and a great way to start off a review.

    -CYM

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  2. This looks good! I'll have to check it out!:)

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  3. Hi :)
    Thank you VERY much for your thoughtful review. I had not heard of "invisible i" before and from your review it is now on my ToBeRead list. One of the best reviews I've read this month.
    Thank you for sharing,
    All the best,
    RKCharron
    :)

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  4. And with a review like that, how can I resist? Onto the TBR.

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  5. Great review! You really made me want to read this book.

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  6. I'm adding this to my list of things to look for at the library this week!

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