A review of Christopher Barzak's Wonders of the Invisible World

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Christopher Barzak's Wonders of the Invisible World was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers in September 2015.

Information about Christopher Barzak:

Christopher Barzak is the author of the Crawford Fantasy Award winning novel, One for Sorrow, which has been made into the Sundance feature film Jamie Marks is Dead.

His second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing, was a finalist for the Nebula Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award.

His most recent novel, Wonders of the Invisible World, was published by Knopf in 2015, and received the Stonewall Honor Award from the American Library Association.

He is also the author of two collections: Birds and Birthdays, a collection of surrealist fantasy stories, and Before and Afterlives, a collection of supernatural fantasies, which won Best Collection in the 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards.

Christopher grew up in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan, and has taught English outside of Tokyo, Japan, where he lived for two years. Currently he teaches fiction writing in the Northeast Ohio MFA program at Youngstown State University.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Wonders of the Invisible World:

Aidan Lockwood feels like he's been sleepwalking through life, each day as hazy and unremarkable as the one before it. But when his former best friend, Jarrod, suddenly moves back to town, the veil that has clouded Aidan's mind begins to lift. Yet what Aidan discovers is that his world is haunted by stories of the past; stories that he has somehow been prevented from remembering.

But visions from the past come to him unbidden, starting with an old apple tree - a gnarled, dead thing - that haunts Aidan's sleep, and seems to beckon to him from across his family's orchard. And then there are the dreams that show him people and places he's only heard of in family stories: a great-grandfather on the field of battle; his own father, stumbling upon an unspeakable tragedy; and a mysterious young boy whose whispered words may be at the heart of the curse that now holds Aidan's family in its grip.

But there's another presence lurking within this invisible world - someone who has been waiting to collect on a debt set into motion generations ago. As the lines between the past and the present, stories and truths, friends and lovers begin to blur, Aidan will be forced to spin a story of his own to protect those he loves, and keep the invisible world at bay.


This is a short and spoiler-free review of Christopher Barzak's Wonders of the Invisible World.

Christopher Barzak's Wonders of the Invisible World was a pleasant surprise for me. Because I had previously read the author's short stories and enjoyed them, I was aware of what to expect from his fiction, but I found myself being surprised by the high quality of this novel. When I began to read the first chapter, I was instantly captivated by the author's writing style and couldn't help but devour the whole novel in one sitting.

Wonders of the Invisible World is a thoroughly gripping, intriguing and thought-provoking novel for readers of all ages, because it's a blend of literary fiction, paranormal fiction and coming of age fiction. Although this novel has been written for young adults, it can also be recommended to adults, because it's not your average run-of-the-mill YA novel, but a full-blooded quality novel that stands head and shoulders above its contemporaries.

To be totally honest, Wonders of the Invisible World is the best and most compelling YA novel I've read in ages. It's one of the few YA novels that have truly managed to impress me in terms of characterisation, storytelling and prose. It has so much more depth and atmosphere than many other novels that I was impressed by it (its quiet power strongly appealed to me).

Here's a short summary of the story:

Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood has been living like a ghost since his mother tried to stop a family curse by causing him to forget his psychic experiences. But when Jarrod Doyle, a childhood friend, returns, so do the memories, and Aidan is compelled to seek the truth and release them all from the story that has trapped them.

The characterisation is engaging, because Christopher Barzak leads his readers into Aidan and Jarrod's world and fluently tells of their developing relationship and budding romance. I found Aidan to be an interesting and well-developed protagonist. Because the author pays attention to Aidan's life and his feelings, his seamless blend of realism, fantasy, magical realism and mystery elements feels complex and captivating.

It would be easy to assume that this novel is just another YA novel about a young man coming to terms with his identity, his family and his life, but that would be assuming wrong. There's much more to this novel than meets the eye, because the author has infused the story with fantastical elements and explores difficult themes and issues in a compelling way.

One of the things why I like this novel is that it makes you think about many things. It has several thought-provoking and intricate elements that will fascinate readers, because the authors deftly explores love, secrets and relationships within the context of literary speculative fiction. When you begin to read this novel, you'll find yourself thinking about the story and the protagonist.

It's great that the author lets the story unfold at its own pace and focuses on writing about the characters. This kind of pacing has always fascinated me, because I like to read stories in which the authors don't rush with the happenings and let readers form a connection to the characters.

Christopher Barzak's elegant and nuanced prose is one of the main reasons why this novel is worth reading, because his sentences are expressive and filled with meaning. The beautiful writing style impressed me a lot, because it's not often that one has an opportunity to read this kind of YA fiction.

Wonders of the Invisible World is a novel that can be wholeheartedly recommended to many readers regardless of their gender, age or sexuality. It's a beautifully written story about a young man and his life. The author explores friendship, love and homosexuality in a tender and believable way without resorting to platitudes or preachiness.

Christopher Barzak's Wonders of the Invisible World is a masterpiece of delicate and engaging storytelling with an alluring touch of the strange and the fantastic. It's a splendid and touching story to everyone who enjoys beautifully written fiction. If you love good characterisation, expressive language and wonderful storytelling, this novel should be at the top of your reading list.

Highly recommended!