Addie LaRue’s Secret

(Image Source: @titanbooks)

(Image Source: @titanbooks)

Milla Ivanova

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?” – V.E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

American fantasy author V.E. Schwab’s latest novel, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” has earned international acclaim, becoming a sensation among a variety of audiences for its gut-wrenching storyline and its impressive imagery.

 Published on October 6th of 2020, this lengthy novel gained instant success – winning the “Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy” and receiving a whopping 4.8 out of 5 stars on the official Barnes and Noble rating forum. All this has warranted the creation of a multitude of fan bases and fanart modeled after the characters, leaving readers infatuated with Schwab’s latest masterpiece.

The Washington Post itself declared this novel to be “one of the most propulsive, compulsive and captivating novels in recent memory.”

Its success begs the question, “Why is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue sparking so much interest?”

The protagonist of the novel, Addie LaRue herself, was born in the small town of Villon-du-Sarthe in 16th-Century France with solely one thing on her mind—experiencing and creating a life for herself outside of the “chains” of her village. Thus, when Addie’s parents force her into an unwanted marriage, she escapes by making a midnight deal with the devil for a new life but unfortunately gets cursed in the process. Although this deal promises her an eternal life, she will be forgotten by everyone who ever meets her within seconds of losing sight of her.

The “Deal with the Devil” trope itself is not uncommon. Cautionary tales of making dangerous deals with devilish characters have frequented literature for hundreds of years, from  Von Chamisso’s 1814 novel Peter Schlemihl to Von Goethe’s 1832 tragic play Faust. So what was different about this novel? 

Fan art of the demon by @vanessa_director

The secret to its thematic success lies in Schwab’s character development. Instead of allowing the Devil, more fondly known as Lucas, to slide off into the shadows after striking the deal, she develops a strong relationship between Addie and Lucas throughout the book. With transitions between time periods in the form of chapter breaks, she leaves readers eager to uncover the plot holes in their relationship.

Cliffhangers are one of Schwab’s most successful tactics to encourage readers to keep flipping the pages. By 2014,  the year in which the book begins, Addie has lived 300 years. Schwab progresses skillfully by inserting chapters that slowly begin to fill in the readers’ gaps about her past experiences. These serve as explanations for Addie’s present actions and also provide clues for what comes next, allowing the reader to crave more of the story.

This book satisfies historical and art enthusiasts as well. Although much of the story takes place in modern-day New York City, Addie has traversed cities like Paris in the 1800’s and New Orleans in the 20th century. Her adventures in these historical sites are tied to the historical aspects of the cities, such as the French Enlightenment, in which Addie meets the infamous Madame Geoffrin and attends a salon gathering.

Additionally, Addie’s fascination with art leaves the reader feeling as though they have left the material world behind and entered a painting. Some of Addie’s favorite places are museums, and she has a habit of immersing herself in works of art.

Fan art of the “Clever Crow” by @theclever.crow

In her review of the story, NPR writer Caitlyn Paxson declares that “the most unique and interesting thing about Addie LaRue is its relationship to art. In a very clever touch, the different sections of the book are broken up with works of art and the sort of descriptive text that would accompany them if they were being sold at an auction. We’re told the artist, the date, the medium, and then a little bit of a blurb, and in that blurb we see Addie’s influence. Her seven signature freckles, her blur of dark hair—over and over.”

Although she cannot make a mark on the world—a shattered vase quickly mends, a drawing disappears—Addie quickly learns that she can act as an inspiration for artists that she meets. During her escapades, she models for painters around the world who later forget who the girl in their painting was. However, when examining historical works of art in museums, Addie’s telltale features (dark hair and seven freckles) can be spotted in various works of art from a number of centuries. In this way, she leaves her mark on the world.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue recently gained a mountain of supporters as the book became viral up on the platform of “Tik Tok” after a popular literature enthusiast posted about her love of the book. Earning millions of likes, this Tik Tok inspired thousands of sales and reads, making the book a sensation among teenaged populations around the world.

The novel as a whole asks us to consider the importance of time, love, danger, and making a mark on the world around us. Bestselling author Neil Gaiman declares it to be “The most joyous evocation of unlikely immortality.”

For lovers of the classic deal-making trope, history buffs, art enthusiasts, or simply those looking for a good read that you will absolutely be unable to put down, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is the perfect book for you.