Monday, August 5, 2019

Invisible and Invincible

Invisible and Invincible, Cecily Anne Paterson

These two very good books for younger teen/tween girls deal realistically with some tough issues that kids can face.

Jazmine is 13 and likes to remain hidden. It’s easy when you try hard enough, avoiding contact with people and never allowing yourself to feel. She can remove her hearing aid and just switch off. She’s moved house with her mum numerous times over the four years since her father’s death. She doesn’t have any real friends at school, so has drifted into the attention of bully Shalini and her friends, who she tries to appease.

Everything comes to a head when Shalini convinces them all to wreck the drama classroom and Jazmine is on the brink of suspension. However, drama teacher Miss Fraser intervenes and convinces Jazmine to be her helper for the upcoming drama production. One proviso is that she has to write down her feelings in a private journal. For the first time in years, Jazmine starts to analyse what she is thinking and how she feels and acts.

As the weeks unfold, Jazmine discovers she loves being involved in the play, she experiments with some gardening at home, and starts to ask questions about what happened to her father. However, she continues to think she is worthless and has nothing to offer and is stunned when some nicer students including Gabby and Liam, extend overtures of friendship towards her.

It is really a story of a girl learning to find her own voice and be OK with who she is. The themes are quite developed, with the bullying being quite intense at points, as well as the desire she feels for one boy. She also has to face what happened to her father.

The sequel Invincible returns us to Jazmine’s Year 8 world. I probably liked this one even more. Jazmine is balancing friends and their eccentricities, a boyfriend who is making her feel uncomfortable, and lots of nightmares when she tries to sleep. She escapes in the school holidays to her grandmother’s house, and finds it a place of solace with a woman she loves, respects and listens to. But family is never simple and an accident means Jazmine has to step up and care for others.

I finished both thinking Paterson has done an excellent job of portraying the variety of feelings and emotions of young women, and the challenges of friendships, boyfriends and complex family relationships. For that reason, I was a little surprised Jazmine was only 13. I felt the story would still have worked for a girl up to 15 or 16. As such, it’s good solid reading for girls aged about 11-14, though younger more na├»ve ones might want to wait a little longer to read it. Miss 12/13 really enjoyed them when she read them. Miss (almost) 12 also liked them, but wasn't as keen on the boyfriend parts. I enjoyed them myself, and there were sections that brought a tear to my eye. Paterson is Australian and so it reads very naturally for our context. The places referred to all smaller towns and regions on the east coast, and the books reflect people, life-styles and a school system many of us are familiar with. Recommended.

(I see too there is now a third in this series – Being Jazmine)

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