Title: All The Invisible Things
Author: Orlagh Collins
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on 7th March, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
A warm, witty, important story about being a young woman today, and what it’s like to find a real connection amid all the noise. Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.
Vetty’s family is moving back to London, and all she can think about is seeing Pez again. They were inseparable when they were small – roaming the city in the long summers, sharing everything. But everyone’s telling her it’ll be different now. After all, a boy and a girl can’t really be friends without feelings getting in the way, can they?
Vetty thinks differently … until Pez tells her she’s ‘not like other girls’. But what does that even mean? Is it a good thing or not? Suddenly she’s wondering whether she wants him to see her like the others – like the ultra-glamorous March, who’s worked some sort of spell on Pez, or the girls in the videos that Pez has hidden on his laptop.
How can she measure up to them? And who says that’s what a girl is supposed to be like anyway?
I really appreciate the themes running through this novel and I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of readers because of the focus on being true to oneself, finding out who you are to begin with, navigating the complex maze of teenage relationships as well as forging new friendships and trying to maintain old ones. These are universal experiences and Vetty’s journey is very relatable as a result, even if you haven’t faced exactly the same set of circumstances.
From the blurb, I made the assumption that the central romance would focus on Vetty and Pez, and I’m so glad that it wasn’t as cliche and obvious as that! Instead Vetty explores a relationship with one of Pez’s friends plus develops a crush on another girl in their group, which throws a spanner in the works! I feel like this is going to be such an important book for bisexual teens in real life because Vetty’s insecurity over her ‘greedy heart’, fretting over whether her peers can tell and agonizing over how to come out (including an aborted attempt with a well-meaning lesbian aunt who inadvertently stifles Vetty) will offer a lot of validation and comfort.
In addition, the author tackles some of the more taboo or lesser discussed topics in YA – I’ll admit to being a little embarrassed during the scene when Vetty explores masturbation, and then I realized how ridiculous that is! We live in a society where sex sells and sex scenes between men & women feature in much of our entertainment, but the focus tends to be on appealing to men. It wasn’t until I read this scene of our female protagonist pleasuring herself and instinctively cringed that it hit me how rare it is for female masturbation to be addressed to the point where I felt embarrassed to read about what is actually a very normal and healthy part of life!
Side-note: I have to facepalm at Vetty idiotically telling her father to come in when he knocked on her door in the middle of this and hiding her half-naked body under the bedsheets. You can tell him you’re getting dressed and to come back later!
Another rarely discussed topic is porn addiction – it sounds like a bit of a joke, and I have to say I didn’t take the idea of it very seriously, but we see the debilitating effects on Pez’s life as he struggles to deal with the consequences. This had an impact on his personality, his relationships with people (not just his girlfriend) and his ability to function in everyday life and it gave me a whole new perspective on the matter after reading this. Vetty plays an important role in helping him through this, and I love seeing their fractured friendship slowly mend throughout the book. There are many setbacks along the way, but it’s all the more precious for being so hard-won by the end.
What’s great is that female friendship is also present and accounted for! I’m always so happy when girls are allowed to be friends, and in this case, Pez’s girlfriend March could’ve so easily been set up as Vetty’s rival, but instead we get a beautiful friendship that develops between them instead. ❤ I could cry with relief at how amazing this is! Easily my favorite part of the book, I relished all their scenes together from Vetty initially feeling jealous and disliking her to realizing that March is actually a lovely person and could become a great friend if she could lower her barriers and allow her in.
At times, the writing was a little jarring and drew attention to itself as I stopped to puzzle through some unusual metaphors and descriptive choices. This is an ARC so I won’t quote any examples as it may change by the time of publication, but it could be a personal choice by the author, which is fine, just not what I’m used to reading.
And as sympathetic as Vetty is, I found her quite frustrating on occasion where she would zone out and live out lengthy scenarios in her head while people were trying to engage her in conversation. A character literally waves their hand in front of her, trying to catch her attention because she keeps tuning out! Don’t get me wrong, I’m the definition of introverted, but I at least try to engage minimally to avoid being a complete dork. In a couple of scenes, we would basically have pages of Vetty’s internal dialogue showing her very active internal life, but when I looked at her actual verbal responses, there was hardly anything and it was entirely on the other person to keep the conversation going. It felt so awkward and I was surprised that people kept trying!
Pros: relatable protagonist, endearing characters, female friendship, male-female platonic relationship, realistic teenage characters, important social issues
Cons: occasionally clumsy writing, irresponsible father (he really irritated me!), nonsensical misunderstandings due to poor communication
Personal Rating: 3.5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.