Whenever I checked out any book recommendation list on Instagram, Pinterest, or Goodreads, one book was standard in all of them, be it Dark Academia, Fantasy, or Historical Fiction - The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
So bested by my curiosity, I ordered a copy despite having a pile of unread books. Of course, I was sceptical in the beginning because, very often, books with beautiful covers and influential fanbases are overrated. Still, I couldn't be happier at being proved wrong. So here I will (try my best to) write a book review and present the reasons that made it well worth the hype.
A Quintessence Of Dark Academia
Dark Academia is a genre that involves stories set on an academic campus with students struggling to find answers to deep questions of life and often falling into a category that isn't all right or all wrong. It promotes forgotten ideas and themes, idealises humanities and liberal arts as passions for their characters, and involves elements of satire, philosophy, and inevitable tragedy.
The most significant aspect of the genre is its notion that arts and knowledge are the way forward to a more fulfilled life as opposed to the everyday lowly household life.
It disparages static social values by introducing new and unique perspectives through its characters and emphasising how students are unaware of the harsh reality outside their campus.
The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue is about Addie, a young girl full of life and endless curiosity to see everything the world offers. She is witty, keen on reading, and a treat to look at; the only catch is that she was born in 1691 when the only positive words attributed to women were submissive, obedient, and most importantly, married.
To avoid meeting the same fate as her friends, she strikes a deal with the devil or 'the God that answered after dark', making a faulting bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
So a moment of desperation leads Addie to make a journey fooling time and people across centuries and continents to make an impression despite being forgotten.
How is it a Dark Academia novel? It is because Addie's only aid in these centuries is art, creativity and expression. She simultaneously acts as a muse for several artists. She uses their work as a reprieve from her life which lacks belonging.
Schwab poses the poignant question, "What is a person if not the marks they leave behind?" and Addie's existence proves that it is indeed so but not always in the way we expect.
Let's Get To The Best Part - Relatability.
The turning point in the story comes when Addie, after being a nameless ephemeral being for 300 years, finds someone who remembers her. The only reason he can is that he has had a similar deal with the devil himself.
Addie and Henry are as unlike as two people can be, which is reinforced by the nature of their deals. Yet, they fall in love, and their imperfect and fragile relationship is fresh air for the readers.
While Addie wants to live despite all odds, Henry, at a weak moment, agrees to shorten his life to be liked by the people around him. Henry has flaws and is compassionate, tired of being rejected or cast aside by everyone. Like Addie gets to live forever, he gets the boon of being "the one" for everyone; each person who sees him sees whatever they want in an ideal candidate, be it a girl searching for a boyfriend or an interviewer hiring for a job; Henry is perfect but is it really a boon?
I'm sure, at times, many of you would have felt inadequate or heard the different (not necessarily romantic) versions of "It's not you, it's me." and wished that you were what they wanted - the topper of an exam, the guy or girl who could be a runway model or someone else who is far from what you are.
Henry represents this idea, as Addie said, "Ideas are wilder than memories.". Hence, his journey is a lesson to all those who are unfortunately trying to be someone they are not. The book will also make you value art and the inarticulate joy it adds to life. In all the years Addie spends, she centres herself around art -
"And this is what she settled on: she can go without food (she will not wither), she can go without heat (the cold will not kill her). But she would go mad without wonder, without beautiful things."
The novel will also remind you of some other masterpieces like The Picture of Dorian Gray, where Dorian wishes his portrait to bear the effects of his age and experiences, which is granted. The most memorable character of the story Lord Henry (the irony of the name is not lost on me), is comparable to the devil or, as Addie 15 christened him, Luc. Both are flamboyant, charming, and insanely seductive, reminding the classic reader of Milton's depiction of Lucifer in Paradise Lost. Like Oscar Wilde, Schwab makes sure to include pansexual, bisexual, gay, and lesbian characters as central figures in the novel.
The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue will simultaneously take you through various emotions and leave you nostalgic for stories you have cherished since childhood.
But, most importantly, Addie and Henry will stay with you long after you flip through the last page.
The best touch, in my opinion, was the reference to seven real artworks at the beginning of each part alluding to timeless beauty that makes the tale almost real.
Whether Addie might be honest or a figment of fiction is a question I'd leave to you; I end my article with the phrase you would understand if you have read the book "I remember you."