Invisibility: Andrea Cremer and David Levithan/Reflections

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This is how it happens:  I write an adult book that Laura Geringer discovers and reads; she gets in touch.  For a year Laura and I talk about how ill-equipped I feel I am to write books for young adults.  A conversation in a Philadelphia restaurant changes everything; I am persuaded to try.  I write what will become several books for Laura, and in the midst of story development, copy editing, cover design, and publicity, I meet Jill Santopolo—utterly adorable, fashion savvy, super smart, wildly well-organized, and Laura's second in command at Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen, where I will write four books, one of them (The Heart is Not a Size) being Jill's very own.  Then one day Jill calls to say that she is headed to Philomel to join a children's book empire carved out by a man named Michael Green.  I'd really like Michael, Jill says.  She hopes I'll eventually meet him.

(She is right.  And I do.  Facts made true in reverse order.)

A few years later, I see Jill again, this time at an ALA event, where she slips me a copy of Between Shades of Gray and whispers two words in my ear:  Tamra Tuller.  Jill and Tamra are, by now, colleagues at Philomel, and Tamra edits the kind of books I like to write.  Jill, looking trademark gorgeous, encourages me to read Ruta Sepetys' international bestseller of a debut novel as proof.  I do.  Again, I am persuaded.  Not long afterwards, I have the great privilege of joining the Philomel family when Tamra reads a book I've been working on for ten years and believes that it has merit. Jill has opened her new home to me, and I am grateful.

What happens next is that Tamra moves to Chronicle and I, with a book dedicated to her because I do love her that much, move to Chronicle, too.  What happens next is Jill and I remain friends (Jill and I and Michael and Jessica, too (not to mention Laura)).  Which is all a very long way of saying how happy I was to receive two of Jill's newest creations just a few weeks ago.  Last night and early this morning I read the first of them.  It's called Invisibility, it's due out in May, and it is co-authored by Jill's fabulously successful Philomel author, Andrea Cremer (The Nightshade Series) and the big-hearted author/editor/sensation/Lover's Dictionary Guru David Levithan.

I hear David Levithan—his soulfulness, his tenderness, his yearning, his love—when I read this book. I hear Andrea Cremer—her careful and credible world building, her necessary specificity, her other-worldly imagination.  It's a potent combination in a story about a Manhattan boy whom no one in the world can see.  No one, that is, except for the girl who has moved in down the hall—a girl who has escaped Minnesota with a brother she deeply loves and a mother who cares for them both, but must work long hours to keep her transplanted family afloat.  Cremer and Levithan's Manhattan is tactile, navigable, stewing with smells and scenes.  Their fantasy world—spellcraft, curses, witches, magic—is equally cinematic and engaging.  The love between the invisible boy and the seeing (and, as it turns out, magically gifted) girl feels enduring, and then there's that other kind of love—between Elizabeth and her brother—that gives this story even greater depth and meaning.  The parents aren't nearly bad either (not at all).

What it is to be invisible.  What it is to see and be seen.  What it is to know there is evil in the world and that any strike against it will scar and (indeed) age those who take a stand.  Invisibility is a fantasy story, but it is more than that, too.  It's a growing-up story in which courage, truth-telling, sacrifice, and vulnerability figure large, and in which love of every kind makes a difference. 


Andrea Cremer said...

Thank you so much, Beth!

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