Laureth Peak is blind, but she has found ways to live a normal life. When her famous writer father goes missing, she enlists the help of her seeing 7-year-old brother Benjamin to help her track him down–in America, thousands of miles from their home in England. Once they’re in New York City, Laureth has to use all her survival skills to help her and Benjamin navigate the concrete jungle and try to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance.
This latest offering from Marcus Sedgwick is a departure from his usual fare of historical fantasy, but it’s no less remarkable. In this contemporary tale, Sedgwick offers readers a fresh take on an old concept of kids looking for their lost parent, and the result is smart, gripping, and wholly worth a reader’s time. The novel’s fast pace and short, taut chapters make for a quick read that won’t allow readers to put the book down.
The novel’s first person narration offers readers insight into Laureth’s mind. What’s so fascinating here is that because Laureth is blind, there are no visual descriptions of anything in the book. The attention to detail here–how Laureth distinguishes different types of money, how she figures out where things are–are excellent and unusual. With the character of Laureth, Sedgwick gently challenges many of the conventional thoughts about what blindness is.
Believable, well-developed characters help round out this satisfying mystery novel, too. Laureth’s relationship with the precocious Benjamin is done very well, as is her interactions with the vivid characters the two encounter on their journey to find their father. Crisp, clear prose helps bring out each character’s motivations and character tics.
This novel manages to balance perfectly between coincidences and contrivances and very rarely oversteps its bounds into heavy-handed territory. A lesser writer would have had a much harder time with this, but Sedgwick is accomplished at this balancing act, and it shows here. Highly recommended for mystery fans. This is fast-paced fun.
She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Brook Press: 2014. Library copy.