She Is Not Invisible
By Marcus Sedgwick
Laureth's Peak's father is a writer. A stalled writer who has been trying for years to write a novel about coincidence. Her mum thinks he's obsessed, but Laureth is worried about him. When his notebook turns up in New York when he is supposed to be in Austria, Laureth is certain that something is seriously wrong. On impulse, she uses her mother's credit card to buy two flights to New York. One for her, and one for her little brother Benjamin. Together they try to follow the clues in the notebook to find their father, coming across a host of interesting characters and challenges on the way to a dramatic denouement.
What we like about it
A fast-paced, exciting thriller, with a protagonist who just happens to be blind.
It's evident that Marcus has done his research, and you can hear the voices of the young people from New College, Worcester (with whom Marcus worked) coming through in the book.
Laureth is a well-rounded character who just happens to be disabled. This is one of the many aspects of her character, and is part of her but without defining her.
The was published simultaneously in Braille, making it accessible to a wider range of readers. Less that 1% of books are published in Braille.
Questions and learning points
How realistic is it for a sixteen year old to travel to New York with her brother?
Is it a bit of an overused plot line for Laureth to try to outwit the burglar by playing on his inability to see in the dark and her skill at moving about without being able to see?
Do the diary excerpts on coincidence with handwritten text make the book less accessible for some readers?
Beth: I really enjoyed She Is Not Invisible and thought that the portrayal of Laureth was realistic and will challenge the perceptions of what someone with a visual impairment can achieve independently. The research Marcus did really paid off, and it's so good to have a disabled protagonist, without turning the story into being an 'issue' book. I think some of the plot lines were perhaps a little unrealistic, but that's the same of any YA thriller, and this would probably more accepted if Laureth weren't blind. I would thoroughly recommend this brilliant read.
Alex: I agree. I loved the book, and found Laureth to be a fascinating and fully-rounded personality - as any good children's book character should be. And in this case all the characters are in fact interesting, quirky and memorable. For example, Benjamin, her younger brother, who has a remarkable (and unfortunately adverse!) effect on any electronic equipment with which he comes into contact. I found the depiction of visual impairment both authentic and informative and yet without ever appearing to 'preach' about the subject of blindness. Many books featuring disabled characters fall into the trap of feeling they have to somehow 'compensate' for the disability or turn the nature of the disability into a strength, and for me this verged on being a serious risk with the final climax of the book (where Laureth uses darkness to her advantage), however I think Marcus Sedgwick somehow just succeeded in side-stepping the potential pitfall and avoiding the clichés. Overall I feel that the book really raises the bar in terms of being both inclusive (in terms of its visually impaired character) and accessible, being published in different formats including daisy, large print, braille and audio.
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