How To Be Invisible by Tim Lott Book Review

How To Be Invisible by Tim Lott

Strato Nyman suffers from a bad case of shyness. Couple that with the fact that he a complete science geek and if that wasn't enough of a bully target, he's the only black kid in Hedgecombe. It's only at home that Strato blends into the background, mostly because his parents are too busy arguing to notice him. Then Strato comes across and old dusty bookstore and comes home with a book that suggests that it can make a person turn invisible. The ever logical and scientific minded Strato doesn't believe it until it actually happens to him. With this new found ability Strato sets out to discover the secrets his parents are hiding, why Lloyd Archibald Turnbull is gunning for him, why the bus driver is so weird, and why his Physics professor is so mean.

Currently only released as an audio book in the US, this novel is a fabulous mash-up of fantasy, real-life drama, adventure, and romance. Strato admits he is an unimaginative kid whose obsession with physics is littered throughout the novel. Everything is a science experiment and even when he turns invisible he approaches the situation as any good scientist would, through observation and testing. Strato is a good kid. He wants his parents to stay together, he can't help how shy he is, and he is desperate to get the school bully off his back.

There were a lot of things I loved about this book. First and foremost, the presence of a minority character was a huge plus. This wasn't an urban novel or historical fiction and frankly, there are so few books with black characters who aren't part of a civil rights movement, that it almost feels like a foreign concept. I also loved the presence of a different kind family unit. Strato's parents (who he calls by their first names for reasons that only happen in fiction) are not married. They love each other and live together but for some reason Strato's father has really dragged his feet with the whole marriage thing. Even so, when his parents' relationship begins to unravel, Strato is just as concerned as any child and divorce is just as real a word whether they are married or not.

The bully of the story felt a little shallow. Child suffers from a cruel abusive mother and a crippled limb, and thus takes his anger out on other people, like Strato. All Strato has to do is pretend to be a ghost and everything changes. I do believe there are children out their who are taking their pain out on others, but I also think there are also people who, despite having loving parents, can be mean and cruel. In other words, bullying is much more complex than this.

How To Be Invisible has a lot of heart, is somewhat didactic, but I was always rooting for Strato and was sure that no matter what happened, he was going to be all right, visible or invisible.