Content Warning: sexual assault, self-harm
Lisa Jewell is an auto-buy author for me, and I have never been disappointed. Invisible Girl solidifies Jewell’s standing in my top 5 authors. This book felt different from her others, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it was the subject matter, maybe because it was more of a slow burn…I’m not entirely sure. However, once the story got going, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.
Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.
In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel – involuntary celibate – forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.
Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.
Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears – and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.
With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read.”
When I started reading this book, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. it didn’t grab me from page one like Jewell’s books typically do and I didn’t find myself thinking about the story when I wasn’t reading. This resulted in tabling Invisible Girl for a few weeks. I read other books that I had on my list and decided to read this one closer to its release date. I’m happy I decided to pick it back up and stick with it because it definitely paid off.
Like the Fours family, I found Owen to be an extremely creepy character. His actions and reactions did not sit well with me and screamed pervert. However, I found myself feeling sorry for him throughout the story as we learned more about him. He even came across as a vulnerable and gullible man that was sucked into a world so much bigger than him. Don’t get me wrong, the horrible things he posted in the incel forums was disgusting and inexcusable, but Jewell presented him in a way that made him more of the nerdy kid trying to fit in than the woman hating incel.
The Fours appeared to be a cookie cutter family from the outside looking in, but we quickly learn that the family has secrets of their own. Cate and Roan’s relationship isn’t perfect and is more than a little rocky. Their son Josh is an innocent mama’s boy who can do no wrong…or is he? As the story progressed, I found myself questioning Josh’s good boy act and wondered whether he was involved the disappearance of Saffyre Maddox. Roan bothered me from the jump, and he was never redeemed. He was pathetic, weak, and I felt sorry for his patients.
My favorite character was Saffyre Maddox because she was a strong, take nothing from nobody, young girl. After experiencing a traumatic event when she was ten years old, Saffyre begins self-harming and becomes a patient of Roan Fours. When Roan ends her treatment, this leaves Saffyre feeling abandoned and she begins to follow Roan and his family. This was a great way to remind readers that Saffyre was young and in need of guidance. In the midst of following Roan, she uncovers things about Cate and Josh, as well as Owen. Being intertwined with all of the characters made it difficult to figure out who might have taken Saffyre. I loved Saffyre’s resilience, how she leaned into her trauma, and took her recovery into her own hands.
The story was told through multiple points of view, which is one of my favorite formats. I love seeing the story from different perspectives and getting to know each character chapter by chapter. While the plot did take time to get moving, once it did there was no turning back. It exposed the underworld of incels, as well as how fallible the justice system is. I really couldn’t figure out who the perpetrator was and kept flipping back and forth between characters and was wrong on all accounts! If you’re a fan of Jewell’s other books, I highly recommend Invisible Girl.
Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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