What makes up an identity? A review of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

A Book of the Month copy of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. The book sits on concrete and is surrounded by fall leaves.

For my first-ever review on this blog, I wanted to highlight one of my top reads of 2020 — The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. This one was all over bookstagram, so when it became available as Book of the Month’s October pick, I absolutely knew I had to grab it! Plus as a former English major, I love finding stories that take classic literary tropes — in the case of Addie LaRue, a Faustian bargain — and twist and mold them into something razor sharp and fresh. Schwab 100% accomplished that with her 442-page masterpiece, and what screams fall-ish, spookier vibes than a deal with the devil?! Plus, if it’s any testament to my love for this fantasy-driven, historical fiction-laced, and romance-tinged story, my rescue pup is named is even named Addie after the book!

Quick synopsis: After Addie ignores the advice of a village elder “to never pray to the gods that answer after dark,” she strikes a deal with a dark, alluring, yet dangerous stranger that forces her to walk invisible across time, history, and geography. Determined to make peace with what it means to be forever alone and forever forgotten, Addie finds adventure in the world around her for the next 300 years. All that changes, however, when she meets a stranger in a bookstore later who finally remembers her face.

The first thing that grabbed my attention as a reader, even in the slow burn of a start, was Schwab’s mastery of language. Her prose is gorgeous, perfectly balancing detailed character development and a winding, provocative plot, both of which sucked me in. I’m usually a fast reader, but this one had me slowing down in order to savor each sentence down to the letter. It had me deeply thinking about my own choices, regrets, would-be’s, and future opportunities.

But where this story really captured my heart was Addie herself. She is exactly the type of character whom, as a reader, I adore deeply. She is courageous, intelligent, independent, resourceful, and clever, yet so achingly human in all of her imperfections. Despite the limitations of her curse — never being remembered by anyone — she manages to live her immortality to the fullest, attempting to find adventure in each new day while still experiencing the hardships that all humans face: that is, heartbreak, pain (physical, psychological, and emotional), loss, fear, etc. Addie is the sort of character I wish I could be friends with in real life, which for me, is the true mark of an amazing, well-developed character. Her story is an incredible testament to the importance of living life to the fullest, loving deeply, and staying true to yourself. 

But the most important facet of this story, for me at least, was its exploration of what makes up one’s identify. Is is a face, a name, an idea, or something else entirely? Addie’s experience of living forever, yet never being remembered, takes the idea of identity — or lack thereof — to a new level. And while I can almost assuredly say that none of us will experience anything exactly like it, don’t many of us at least understand her struggle to find herself?

As a 25-year-old woman, identity is one of those themes that is close to my heart. It feels like every action I take, every choice I pursue is in constant pursuit of finding my own identity. I related so much to Addie’s search for herself, even when it seemed nearly impossible. Her journey reminded me of the importance of living life fully, loving deeply, and staying true to yourself — all ingredients that lead to recognizing and understanding one’s identity.

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