By Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
No one does crushing like David Levithan: the giddiness, the lightness, the simultaneous fear, hope and joy that consumes the newly smitten. He really gets to exercise those well-worked writerly muscles in the fleet first hundred pages of his latest (his sixth since 2010, with another due this year), cowritten with Andrea Cremer, who more or less keeps pace with him as they trade off chapters: his, from the point of view of a teenage boy who has been literally invisible his whole life; hers, from that of a visible teenage girl, newly moved to NYC, who’s the first person ever able to see him. Levithan’s direct, honest, emotional prose could turn the most confirmed bachelor into a lovesick fool, and the supernatural story supports an easy but powerful allegory: don’t we all feel invisible until somebody loves us? Especially in the city?
But then the book gets bogged down in mythology: long, dry expositional passages about cursecasters and spellseekers, which have no poignant underpinnings other than, you know, sometimes shit gets in the way of young love and drives young lovers apart. It’s Levithan who introduces the offending backstory, but it’s Cremer (best known for the YA werewolf Nightshade series) who’s tasked with running with it, keeping her character locked in training, trying to understand the nature of curses. Luckily, that frees up Levithan to explore the story’s emotional core through the actual cursed one: the intimacies and unspoken conflicts that arise from the magical mumbojumbo. That is, Levithan finds his way out of the nonsense and locates the humanity in the superhuman.