Emmie the Invisible is not really invisible. She is not a superhero and has no special powers. She is just a girl at school, facing all the problems and challenges that girls at school usually face, and struggling – really struggling. This thoughtful and extremely empathetic drama uses subtle comedy and quirky illustrations to transport readers into the mind of Emmie as she fights to understand why being a girl at school is so difficult.
Emmie lives with her health-obsessed mum and very busy dad, both of whom are usually absent. She has only one friend and simply cannot bring herself to talk to or interact with any of her peers at school. Her stomach cramps up and her heart races when any of the other kids so much as look at her. When Emmie and her friend write secret, pretend love letters to popular boys at school, they think they are just having another private joke. They soon learn that nothing stays private at school for long!
Emmie is, all of a sudden, not as invisible as she’d like and she soon sinks into despair. Her plight is described in doodles, speech marks and thought bubbles, as well as a direct and brutally honest first person prose that brings the reader into Emmie’s confidence. The frankness of her account is impressive and deeply affecting; readers will all connect with her.
Alongside Emmie’s story there is a second narrative, that of a perfect, popular girl – Katie – who has no problems and the amazing ability to make all the right decisions and get everyone to like her. This accompanying story is told as a comic book, and could be lifted straight from the pages of Emmie’s own notebook, as drawing is the only real thing that keeps her calm.
When the two protagonists are forced into a meeting, the story begins to take a new direction and powerful themes of hope and trust emerge. In order to overcome her own inhibitions, Emmie has to learn that she is not the only person at school with hidden depths.
It’s refreshing to read a tale set in an American school that is not filled with stereotypes. Each character, even those with smaller roles to play, are nuanced and believable and capable of surprising the reader on the next page. The honesty and authenticity of this book is a real strength and there are many children with whom it will strike a very familiar chord.