Invisble Emmie

by Terri Libenson

Another book off my kid’s stack. She thought it boring, didn’t read far and put it in our return pile. It has some issues, but for the most part, I really connected with the main character so overlooked some awkward things. It’s obviously a humorous look at how awful middle school can be, but some things just seemed too over the top. (Wet paper towels stuck to the wall and kids that spit on the floor, okay. Dead rats in the hall? what?) It’s kind of a merge between graphic novel and illustrated chapter book. The story is told in alternate viewpoints- Emmie’s has explanatory paragraphs with lots of illustrations, whereas Katie’s pages are pure comic-book style. Emmie is very shy and quiet. She has a lonely home life (both parents work), likes drawing (but doesn’t hang out with the art club kids) and often doesn’t know what to say when other kids are chatting away. She mostly tries to avoid being noticed at school, but then wonders why nobody sees her. Her contrast Katie is popular, pretty and surrounded by gossiping friends- a girl who seems to have it all, but isn’t snobby about it and tries to be nice to others. Through the story each girl is seen in the background of the other’s pages, and then they intersect over a boy Emmie has a crush on. Emmie wrote a love poem to him in jest, but she drops it and another kid picks it up- and of course he shares it around. Emmie is mortified. Then her crush asks Katie out, which complicates things. Will she suffer in silence? or finally speak up for herself?

While it’s got a lot of detail, this story covers only one school day. The ending surprised me. I was glad to see Emmie find ways to stand up for herself, but I was thrown off by the final reveal (Katie’s not real. She’s a character Emmie drew). There was a clue earlier on, I just didn’t pick up on it. For all that, what I really liked about it was Emmie’s character. Because I was like that in middle and high school. I was the super quiet one that preferred drawing to watching television, and couldn’t manage to make small talk. Other kids on the bus even made jokes that I was mute, because they never heard me talking to anyone. And this wasn’t a thing when I was a kid obviously- but I’m the one now who has an ‘ancient’ flip phone! haha.

This book is part of a series, but the others don’t look quite as appealing to me. Probably because it’s the Emmie character I related to most, and some reviewers have said all the books have a similar kind of twist ending. Not sure I’m in the mood for that. Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
185 pages, 2017

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