Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review: The Last Invisible Boy

The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman. Upper Elementary, Middle School. Ginee Seo Books, October 2008. Copy borrowed from my local library.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

Twelve-year-old Finn is turning invisible, or that's what he believes anyway. It all started several months ago on The Terrible Day That Changed Everything. It was on that day that Finn's father died unexpectedly. Almost immediately after that, Finn's hair started to turn white and his skin began to pale. Every week it's gotten a little bit worse and Finn's convinced that he's slipping away into nothing, maybe so that he can join his dad and be happy again.

In a mix of cartoons and prose, Finn tells us the story of dealing with his grief.

What I liked about it was how immediate it felt. Kuhlman writes the story as if Finn is actually sitting there at that moment, writing down what's happening. Finn addresses the audience. He periodically calls for a break and tells the reader to stop reading for awhile and then come back to the book. He even turns it over to his younger brother for a chapter.

The format and the tone in the beginning of the book really reminded me of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. But this book never really took off for me the way Part-Time Indian did. It wasn't as funny as I wanted to be and it was way more sad and depressing than I had initially thought it would be.

Okay, okay, I know it's about a kid's father dying and dealing with grief, but I would have been more impressed if Kuhlman had been able to keep up the humor throughout the book. Also, the plot kind of meanders along without much happening. Finn warns us at the beginning of the book:

"This book. It's like I'm driving a school bus but my legs are too short to reach the brake. It's a runaway bus so anything can happen." (pg 1)

Well, the plot may be a runaway bus, but it's a bus that just keeps circling the block.

That said, it's a very real portrayal of a boy dealing with grief. I can see that it might resonate with kids, especially boys, who are dealing with loss or unexpected change. Finn cries. His mom cries. Finn is vehemently NOT okay for a long time. And it's important for kids to know that it's okay to not be okay. The book came to a satisfying (if predictable) conclusion.

Check out the book trailer: