BOOK REVIEW: What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Twelve-year-old Ethel Letherhead has spent the last year fighting a vicious battle with the extreme acne that decided to take up residence on her face rather suddenly.
My acne started about a year ago with a single, tiny pimple on my forehead. The pimple, I like to think, was sent as an advance scout by the Acne Amry. It reported back to Pimple HQ, and within weeks a full regiment of spots and blackheads had encamped on my face and nothing I did could beat them back.
She’s taken every step she can think of to beat the problem that has led to her “Pizza Face” nickname at school. Everything from Good Old Soap and Water and special diets, through to homeopathic remedies and antibiotics. Until she discovers Dr Chang His Skin So Clear online; a herbal, mushroomy powdered drink that is specifically designed to treat acne.
The action of reaching down, picking up my tinkling phone, finding the silent button, switching it off, and staring at the screen while it vibrates in my hands and then stops… all of those things are so absolutely normal and everyday that I think my brain just fills in the missing stuff.
Missing stuff like my hand, and fingers.
It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret, at least for a little while.
And this is where the whole invisibility thing might have ended. Just some weird day that came and went, with nobody to say that I was telling the truth – apart from an unpopular kids at school who is well known for shooting his mouth off, so no one would have believed him.
I could have left it at that. That would have been fine.
But then I’d never have discovered who I am.
When one day the invisibility fails to wear off, Ethel is thrown into a nightmare of lies and deception as she struggles to keep herself safe, to find the remedy that will make her seen again – and solve the mystery of her own birth…
In What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible, Welford delivers an easy, fun read, but with deeper questions of family, friendship and belonging.
It’s true that, from a thirty-year-old point of view, many things in this book were obvious and/or a little too conveniently coincidental. But for a reader in the target age group, this is bound to be a little less obvious, and either way, the writing is warm and engaging and will keep you reading, even if you do know what’s to come.
Prior to reading this book, I had struggled through another middle grade that was roughly 60% the length of this book, but with was dull and somewhat painful. I found myself thinking that maybe I needed a break from reading. Maybe I had overdone it, and needed to take a day or two off. Then I picked this up and read the first chapter and I was hooked.
Welford has delivered a book that will pull you in, have you rooting for the main character and those she loves, and fearing for her in times of stress and danger. Most of all, Welford’s book is bound to act as a reset button and remind you of all the fun things that can be found in a middle grade novel done well.
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