Addie LaRue was born in France at the very end of the 17th century — but no one remembers that. No one, that is, except for Addie herself and the devil she makes a deal with to escape an unwanted marriage and an ordinary life. But bargaining with wild gods always comes with hidden costs. Addie willingly trades her soul for immortality, but she doesn't realize until too late that the price of her freedom is her legacy — for now she is doomed to be instantly forgotten by everyone she meets.
What follows is an ouroboros of a tale as Addie slips through time, desperately trying to have some influence on the world and the people she meets. For while she can't leave a mark or memory in her wake, she finds that she can plant ideas and tend to them, filling art and music with echoes of her presence. Her devil appears occasionally to taunt her and push her, but no hardship he can conjure is enough to make her give in and surrender her immortal life and her soul along with it.
Then, someone remembers her.
Henry is a just a normal guy who works in a bookstore. When Addie steals a book from him, she's sure he'll forget her, just like everyone has for the past 300 years. But Henry remembers her. He can say her name. It seems like Addie has finally found a loophole — a cure for her lonely existence. But there's something Henry isn't telling her, and it may be enough to bring and end to Addie's three centuries of resistance and survival.
It's a bit cheeky to call The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Faust for romantic bisexual goths, but it's not wrong.
It is definitely romantic, though it's not exactly a romance, at least not primarily. Addie is first and foremost infatuated with life, even if it's a slightly dysfunctional relationship. Her yearning to tell her story and leave her mark is her true love, more yearned for than any boy, girl, or devil. Her escapades through time are sometimes grand and sometimes hardscrabble. Her strange life is itself romantic, as she weaves in and out of history, invisible but ever-present.
Addie and Henry are both bi in a way that feels refreshingly casual for fiction, and other queer characters surround them. Each relationship is unique and beautifully painted, even when they sometimes turn sour as Addie's lovers slip through her fingers again and again. Because Addie exists on the fringe of people's lives, she can be whomever she wants, even if it's only for a day at a time.
And there is an element to this book that feels undeniably and delightfully goth. It features a beautiful black-haired devil made of night and a girl doomed to wander through the years alone and watch everyone she loves forget her and die. What could be more goth than that?
But I think the most unique and interesting thing about Addie LaRue is its relationship to art. In a very clever touch, the different sections of the book are broken up with works of art and the sort of descriptive text that would accompany them if they were being sold at an auction. We're told the artist, the date, the medium, and then a little bit of a blurb, and in that blurb we see Addie's influence. Her seven signature freckles, her blur of dark hair — over and over she has attempted to imprint herself in an artist's mind. A collection of these would almost work as a short story on their own, offering fleeting impressions of a forgotten immortal. Together, they give us a sweeping feeling of urgency as we understand Addie's longing to be remembered in such a concrete and visceral way.
And while I don't want to say too much and spoil the effect, I loved that as Addie LaRue unfurls its final pages, we discover that we've been a part of her story all along without even knowing it. What might feel meta or too cute in less competent hands, Addie LaRue manages to pull off like the prestige of a particularly elegant magic trick, leaving us with the feeling that we too have been a part of Addie's long and invisible life. I for one will most certainly remember her.
Caitlyn Paxson is a writer and performer. She is a regular reviewer for NPR Books and Quill & Quire.