Wonders of the Invisible World
I picked up Wonders of the Invisible World at the bookstore in Columbus on the night before Thanksgiving, when we were shopping and waiting for Eleanor’s plane to come in. I picked it up because Ana had enjoyed it, and I started reading it at the bookstore because I wanted to see if it would be a good gift for a person I have in mind. I bought it, brought it home, and finished reading it on the morning after Thanksgiving, because it’s such a good book that it would be a good gift for almost anyone.
Set in small-town Ohio, it’s a story about a teenager, Aidan, whose best friend from elementary and middle school, Jarrod, comes back to town, making Aidan realize that there are things he has forgotten. He is not sure why, and as he solves the mystery, readers find out more of what he has forgotten.
A day after meeting Jarrod again, Aidan tells him “I can remember things, sure. But I can hardly remember you. And there are other things I can’t remember, I think, even when I try really hard. Like most of junior high is gone.” Of course, Jarrod responds to this with “good riddance,” but despite the joking, he supports Aidan and tries to help him recover his memories.
Aidan begins to discover memories through dream walking, and the dreams are (I thought oddly) all of people related to him. He tries asking his mother about what is happening, because she can tell the future and knows how to help him get back after his dream walking, but she is reluctant to tell him the whole story. We learn that this is because she has told a story to protect him, and the reason it’s unraveling a little is because she didn’t know Jarrod would be back, and so didn’t include him in it.
As Aidan and Jarrod fall in love, Aidan discovers his place in his town, and in his family. The big secret turns out to be a secret about his family, which is why the dreams were all from people related to him. Aidan thinks that “small towns in remote corners of the world are really quaint, unless you don’t fit into them. Then they’re just small.” He learns that his role in his family is not to protect anyone, but to tell all the bits of truth he can discover. An Aunt he has never met before but discovered in an old family photograph helps him find the power in his truth-telling, and he uses that to save himself and his mother, when she would have sacrificed herself to save him.
In the end, Aidan finds out that using his powers doesn’t make him different from everyone else; that everything about himself and Jarrod
“was entirely normal, really. We were as ordinary as anything we might come across in this world….what other people saw wasn’t necessarily the truth. And in the end it was the one truly and totally not-normal thing about me—the kind of sight I’d been born with—that helped me to understand and forgive the people who couldn’t look at Jarrod and me and see us for who we were: just two people in love. When I looked at other people now, I could see how so many of them were wearing blindfolds like the one my mom had put on me. I could see how so many of them had damaged vision. How they couldn’t see things clearly. How they saw only the stories other people had told them.”
Among the many things to like about this book are the truths about living in small towns, the descriptions of what we might think of as magic in everyday terms, and the tightly plotted revelations along the path of Aidan’s discoveries about what it means to be a man in his family.