All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins

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All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Absorbing and relatable story about dealing with grief, friendship, coming to terms with sexuality, and dealing with porn addiction. It crams a lot in but never feels overcrowded.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: March 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408888339

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Vetty, her dad, and her little sister are about to move back to London and Vetty can't wait. The family has been staying with Aunt Wendy since the death of Vetty's mother several years ago. With the girls older and Aunt Wendy getting married, it's time to get back to their lives. Vetty, mostly, is looking forward to reconnecting with Pez. She and he were inseparable - spending all their time together and knowing each other inside out, without the need for words. Vetty could do with a friend like that right now, as her inner feelings of difference get ever stronger...

... but the reunion doesn't quite go as planned. Pez seems different. He is distant and truculent and Vetty doesn't quite know what to make of him. What does he mean when he says Vetty is not like other girls? Has he seen her innermost thoughts? Has anyone else? And all those tabs in his browser - the x-rated ones - what do they mean?

Vetty is about to embark upon a summer of discoveries. She will crush on a girl, go out with a boy, get a job, look after a little sister hurtling towards puberty, and think about her mum. And all the while, she'll be searching to find the real Pez, the one she knew before everything started going wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed All the Invisible Things. It's a kind and compassionate book with characters who all have their trials and tribulations and who do not necessarily always behave sensibly or well. But Collins looks at them all with an understanding eye and you look along with her, wishing them all well. The novel deals with some difficult issues - bereavement, bisexuality, porn addiction, the perils of gossip - and it engages both seriously and unflinchingly but without rancour. Central character Vetty is a thoughtful, introspective girl who has a lot to balance in her life and whose challenges are enormously relatable. I really liked her.

If I had a nit to pick it would be that the book meanders somewhat. There's a long, slightly stifling build-up before any real narrative progression and I wanted the first half of the book to move along at a brisker pace. And there's a bit too much time spent on descriptive trivialities - flavours chosen at the milkshake outlet don't hold my attention well. But that's a small criticism of a big-hearted book that takes serious themes and deals with them very well. All the Invisible Things sends the message that there's more than one way to be in the world and that's okay, and that friendships are worth fighting for. It also leaves room always for redemption, hope and a positive future. You couldn't want more than that now, could you?

If you haven't read Collins's debut novel, No Filter, then you should. Like Other Girls by Claire Hennessy also features a protagonist who is bisexual.

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