When I saw the blurb for this one, I couldn’t resist pressing the Request button. Did it live up to my expectations?
Turning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed. It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret. Or does she…?
The abbreviated blurb makes the whole process of becoming invisible sound far more controlled and straightforward than it actually is – which for me was one of the main selling points of this beguiling, funny book. All too often fantasy or paranormal books for children tip them into situations that would have most of us hiding under the duvet armed with a strong glass of gin and prosac – only for said children to accept the whole process without so much as a blink. While children may well be a great deal more adaptable than we oldsters, I was far happier to witness Ethel’s real shock when she looks down to see her hands isn’t visible.
In fact, Ethel is a wonderful protagonist. At a spiky twelve years old with a bumpy background, she is as wary as you’d expect – yet also with the vulnerabilities that come with being twelve. Having a twelve year old granddaughter, it’s an age I’m very familiar with and Welford has absolutely nailed it. There are a whole host of complexities that come with finding herself invisible, as well as a handful of desperate, harebrained opportunities that seem like a good idea at the time. I sniggered in an appalled way all through the Talent Show, while catching myself muttering, ‘Oh no!’ a couple of times.
The trick of writing good farce is for the people in the middle of the mess to take the whole situation utterly seriously – and there’s no reason why Ethel would want to find any of this remotely funny, anyway. The book teetered between making me want to laugh and cry, as I found myself invested in her situation. I guessed one of the main reveals very early on, but I don’t think it matters that much – it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying her slowly discovering who exactly her parents are.
The other issue that makes this book stand out for me, is the way Welford depicts the adults in Ethel’s life. She lives with her grandmother and regularly visits her great-granny, now living in a residential home. Welford shows the adults as doing the best they can in some tricky situations – a refreshing change when all too often adults are shown to be bumbling idiots or unthinking tyrants in otherwise excellent children’s books. I liked the fact that Ethel frequently refers to her grandmother’s sayings and ways of doing things as she evidently is trying to work out which of her opinions and approaches to life are applicable to herself.
The ending was one of the strengths of this book – it takes the story onwards and wraps up the main problems without being unduly sentimental or too tidy. All in all, this is an enjoyable adventure that packs an emotional punch and one I shall be introducing to my granddaughter in due course.
Receiving a copy of What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
A delightful post. I don’t have a granddaughter, but I’D read the book!
It’s great fun – I like children’s books. The best are every bit as enjoyable as adult reads:).
I agree 100% !
I remember running across this book and thinking it wasn’t for me. Now I’m thinking maybe it is. Wonderful review, Sarah.
Thank you, Laura:). I was enormously impressed at how well Ethel is portrayed and thoroughly enjoyed the story.
I certainly like a degree of realism in middle grade books as well. Yes kids do accept some things more easily, but turning invisible should still come as a shock, nice to hear this book did that part right. Ethel sounds like a wonderful character to follow and that’s great you felt her character was spot on as you have a 12 year old granddaughter. Good to hear also the adults act realistically in this one instead of like bumbling idiots. Great review!
Thank you, Lola:). It really is an enjoyable read.
Sounds like fun. I wish I was 13 again. 😉
Really?? I HATED my teens with a passion! I wouldn’t go back there for anything *shudders at the thought*
Hmmm… You have a point there. And I do like my 35 (soon to be 36).
Yes… I started to enjoy my life during my 30s, but it wasn’t until my 40s that it became a joy:).
Hopefully I’ll follow your footsteps :). And may each decade of your life be more joyful than the previous one.
Thank you! It has certainly proved to be the case so far. Overall, I have a lovely time, these days – and it is set to get even better:)).
That’s great :).