What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford
|What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Faux pas and fantasy elements make for a definite hit in the making, with this sophomore effort really proving the benefits of this author's talents.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 406||Date: December 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet Ethel. Yes, it's an old-fashioned name for such a young girl, but she has connections with the generations that came before, in that she lives with her gran in the far north-east of England. Mother dead, and dad long absent, it's them and the dog, and very little in the way of friendship, mostly because Ethel is not allowed to be as cool as she would wish, and because she has horrendous acne. The nearest thing to a friend would seem to be a boy in class who has allegedly awful BO, and obviously worse, is an Arsenal fan. So why are we meeting Ethel? Oh yes, it's because she woke up one morning, after trying a sunbed that had been offloaded on to her for free, to find she'd been on it well over an hour, and had in fact become totally invisible.
The great thing about this book was that I immediately forgot the impossibility of it all – what with Ethel finding her eyelids are see-through, but not her optical cells (that would need to be visible to capture light and not let it pass through) – and got on with enjoying the story. We get it through her words, in very compelling present tense, with a few key chapters as flashback first, which had a lot of teasers of what would be happening that I found a little redundant, so chattily readable was everything – and several details I caught as foreshadowing potentially key callbacks later. Those got immediately forgotten, though, as so much of it all was just that – pleasantly immediate.
The writing is even brave enough to clearly have it mentioned that kids often feeling invisible is a metaphor for their loneliness, and a sign of them not fitting in. Said purported best friend has that in spades – and a hobby concerning reviving the town lighthouse, of all things – but the drama isn't concerned with Ethel going along the 'seeking acceptance' route – and the frisson when you start to see what the book is actually going to be about is worth the wait. Yes, this author has repeated the shtick of his debut novel, in giving us clear and interesting dramas concerning modern youths on the Northumberland/Tyneside coast, with old-fashioned names and a fondness for writing lists, where fantasy and genre tropes are spun on to their heads for the sake of a human and heartfelt story. (And once again there is malice to pets – what is that?!)
It's still not perfect, however. While the style is suitably chatty for the ten-to-thirteen year old readers, I found Ethel at times jumped from one interest to another in very scattershot fashion. I would blame, however, the use of the tense on our author – too often we slipped into a past tense only for us to feel jolted when back in the present; at times this seemed in error, but many times it just felt a touch unsettling. But if anything, the biggest fault – the fact that key parts of the multiple plots are clearly too predictable – is actually forgivable. There certainly are things that are too exciting to be sniffed at, whether you've seen them coming or not, and there definitely are surprises. And throughout there is what I alluded to earlier – a control over the piece, so that however weird and wacky the fantasy adventure may get, you still take it on board as somewhat plausible – which is only helped by how quickly you return to the mundane, and see the everyday world of Ethel and some suitably emotional plot elements. The poise of the balance between genre writing and superior tween soapiness is fast becoming this author's metier, and I think many readers will be waiting for more of the same as a result.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell has a lad trying to find his place in the world with the use of super persuasive powers as opposed to Ethel's more supernatural ones.
You can read more book reviews or buy What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford at Amazon.com.
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