Wonders of the Invisible World is a refreshing adventure into the space of fantasy young adult genre that feels completely original
I think one of the most interesting and successful parts of the young adult genre is the “weird” factor. You have to admit, a lot of YA is weird with weird characters in weird situations. But no YA book is quite like Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak. Aiden Lockwood is your typical outcast in your typical small town high school. However, when Aiden’s former best friend Jarrod comes back to town he surfaces an entire hidden story in Aiden’s past.
Not only is the story hidden, but Aiden has simply lost large swaths of his memory. As he and Jarrod slowly uncover his past, they realize that the story is a lot more complicated than they initially thought. It transcends generations, time, and even worlds.
Like a lot of young adult novels, at the center of whatever conflict is a romance. However, what I really appreciated about the romance is that avoided almost all the cliches of a YA romance. First of all, Barzak doesn’t hit us over the head with “adorable” scenes that manipulate us into wanting the central couple to get together. The build up is very organic. He also doesn’t try to make the love interest sarcastically charming or a misunderstood rebel or bad boy with a heart of gold. We want the couple to be together because they’re right for each other. He doesn’t need grand romantic gestures to prove that.
And that is what is really refreshing about Wonders of the Invisible World is that Barzak doesn’t force Aiden’s personal storyline or the fantasy storyline into melodrama. In fact, for all the fantastical elements or potential for a soaring high school outcast story he keeps the story pretty lean. You’ll thank him for that in the end because it would pay a disservice to Aiden. His entire story is that he leads a non-fantastical life. The magic and curses and visions speak for themselves.
I will also say that this is a very weird book. It deals with things in a wholly original way that will catch you off guard throughout. But between family curses, disembodied voices, and a personification of death, it’s not exactly your typical book. It’s easy to forget that the fantastic elements are all that fantastic, though. Barzak’s nonchalant style when it comes to writing about the fantasy elements really refreshing. The lack of hyperbole makes the clearly magical parts of the story seem realistic.
Wonders of the Invisible World doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel of the young adult genre. However, it does spin it on a different rhythm. The tropes we have come to know and love and love to hate are twisted to make an entertaining and satisfying adventure into the mystical. 7.5/10