Today I’m back at it with a review for the fantastic Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson. Quirky, insightful, and deeply intuitive this one transported me straight back to middle school, my first crush, and the crazy journey that comes with learning to feel comfortable in your own skin.
Title: Invisible Emmie
Author: Terri Libenson
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Fiction, Children’s Fiction
Themes: Friendship, Family, Middle School, Crushes, Individuality
My Rating: 5 / 5
This debut novel from US cartoonist Terri Libenson follows two girls who could not seem more different: shy, observant, wallflower Emmie; and loud, popular, cheery Katie. What both girls do have in common are their strong feelings for the same boy, Tyler Ross. Then Emmie’s very private, very embarrassing scribbles fall into the wrong hands . . .
Invisible Emmie is, by far, my favourite middle school read of the year. I adored everything about it – from the artwork to the prose, to the characters and the events, it created a beautifully believable journey that can be enjoyed by young readers and adults alike.
At first I was a little thrown by the fact that Katie’s portion of the book were in comics format while Emmie’s were I’m traditional prose, but this really worked to create an enhanced mood for both characters. Not only did this highlight Katie’s ability to relate with others and Emmie’s highly introverted nature, but it also played subtly on the stereotypes surrounding readers. My take away at the end was not that popular or ‘less intellectual’ kids only read graphic novels, and that the heady types read ‘real books’, but rather that any medium is perfect for telling any story and reaching any reader.
I loved how vivid the illustrations were, with simple lines and block colours. The panels were laid out in an easy to follow manner, and even when events took place in the gutter, it was always clear what was going and who was the subject of the action. As a result, I couldn’t help bu think that this was a perfect transitional book – if a young reader is well versed in graphic novels, it’s a great book for adding in a little more prose and extending that concentration window; and for those that read prose almost exclusively, it’s a gentle introduction to the info-packed world of visual mediums. The limited number of characters really helps with this too, as even though you do have to do a bit of attention switching, the central story thread and shared characters keeps everything in line and on track throughout.
I’m not going to lie though, I related waaaay more with Emmie than I ever did Katie. I mean, where was this book when I was going through middle school?! Granted, I always had my nose in a book rather than a sketch pad, but the feeling of being that little bit awkward and pushed to the outskirts of the school society was one that really rang true. But at the same time, it was so valuable to see the amount of effort Katie put in to have her ‘perfect’ life. Regardless of which character you are drawn towards, both girls encourage readers to consider the events and actions that drive the people around us.
Surviving middle school (or any level of school for that matter) is no joke – especially when your crush becomes public knowledge! But, this is a book that might help make that journey just a little more enjoyable for some. It doesn’t rely on bawdy humour, cheap pranks, or the lowest common denominator to get it’s point across. Rather, it leverages the emotional intelligence and experiences innate in almost every student and prompts some serious introspection.
Would I recommend this book? Well, I’ve already ordered a parma-bound copy for my school library if that gives you any ideas! It’s fun, engaging, and deeply relatable regardless of your age. It is definitely what some might consider as on the sensitive side, and as such might classify it as a ‘girls book’. But, if there is anything out there that can encourage our young ladies to be kinder to one another I am all for it!
Buy it, borrow it, love it. This is one that is absolutely worth the read!