The Last Invisible Boy
A book review for parents
This emotionally realistic fantasy book by Evan Kuhlman is published by Ginee Seo Books, Simon & Schuster Children's Books and is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Finn Garrett feels like a big eraser has fallen on him. His skin and hair keep getting lighter, and he fears he's becoming invisible. It starts the day his dad dies unexpectedly. While onlookers, from doctors and psychologists to spectators at a basketball game, theorize about why he's literally fading, Finn journals (with illustrations) about his dad, his concern for his mom and brother, his love for his friend Melanie, and his own journey through grief. When Finn realizes that he really does want to be visible to the world, his color starts to return.
Finn says living on a hill puts his family a tiny bit closer to heaven, and he contends that all people and objects were either born or created. Finn is interested in the meanings of names, and many of the ones he mentions have biblical origins. Finn prays that his dream of growing old with Melanie will come true. The two try to be respectful when they visit the cemetery where his dad is buried so they won't make God mad. Finn also likes to be at the cemetery alone sometimes so he can talk to his dad or pray. He is put off by the sentiment in a sympathy card, which suggests that every time it rains, God is crying with him, though later he stands in the rain and feels like God is washing all of the muck off of him. At his dad's funeral, the minister from the Presbyterian Church his family rarely attends says nice words about his dad and God. Finn worries that he's being erased for the sin of failing to save his father's life. Mom says a “prayer” (which is really just parting words addressed to Dad) when they plant a tree in his memory.
Finn offers in-depth insights about his dad's character through his narrative and by relaying others' memories, since his objective is to keep his father's story alive. Finn's father worked long hours as manager of a sporting goods store. He always feared he wasn't giving enough time and energy to his family, so he often made up for it by taking them to play baseball at 2 a.m. or treating them to some other memorable bonding activity. When a friend of Dad's was beaten and robbed outside a dance club, Dad flew out to care for him. Dad died of "natural causes" on the plane ride home. Mom, a loan officer in her mid-30s, is sad and forgetful in the wake of her husband's death. Finn says he gets away with more now, like watching an R-rated movie on TV. Mom still tries to play games with and encourage her boys. She bleaches her hair white to support Finn as his hair becomes lighter. Grandpa Vic (Dad's father) comes to fix things around the house and make sure the car is running well after Dad dies. He's also with the family when they get the full story about Dad's death, and he is part of the informal tree-planting ceremony. Finn says Melanie's father is overbearing and critical, and her mother is only around two weeks a year.
Other Belief Systems
Finn says the truth is made of clay and is malleable. If it were made of stone, he says, you couldn't twist it but only break it. His mother doesn't believe in anything she can't prove. Finn draws a picture of what he'll look like when he's reincarnated, and he ponders what he might have been in another life. Finn's science teacher lectures about fish evolving into land dwellers. Finn tells his psychologist that death is when you are no more, like a notebook that's run out of pages. He writes about Pegasus and his role in Greek mythology as though he believes the story is true. Finn doesn't know whether his father is in heaven, floating around the universe or starting his next life. He says some people believe zombies and demon spirits hover around graveyards.
The words suck, crap, h---, darn, and fart appear a few times. The school nurse exclaims, when she sees how pale Finn is becoming. Mom says she will kick the boys' butts in Scrabble, and she takes God's name in vain when she learns her husband has died.
Melanie kisses Finn on the cheek and says it is medicine. Finn and Melanie like to hang out at the cemetery where Finn's dad is buried. There, they sometimes hold hands and engage in nonsexual tickling and wrestling. One such time, Finn realizes he thoroughly loves Melanie, not just for what she looks like but for all that she is. He expresses these overwhelming feelings by telling her she is cool. When they sit, legs touching, on the bus, he feels little sparks in the air. A female is buried on either side of Dad, and Finn thinks his dad would like being squeezed between two women for all eternity. Mom tells a story about a date with Dad, on which they had their first kiss.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Have you ever had something bad happen to you so suddenly that you felt like you'd been hit by a meteor?
How did you handle it?
- Are you interested in the meanings of names, like Finn is?
What does your name mean?
Do you like or dislike your name?
Do you think it fits you?
What name would fit you better?
- Do you agree with Finn that every house has a story to tell?
What stories would your home tell about you and your family?
- After the big storm where Finn, his mom and his brother hide in the basement and Dad doesn't come, Finn says he both deeply loved and deeply hated his dad.
Have you ever felt two conflicting emotions at the same time?
Why do you think Finn's dad didn't join the family during the storm?
- What makes Melanie and Finn's relationship special?
What dream does he have for their future?
What are your dreams?
What kind of person do you want to be when you get older, as a parent or even a grandparent?
- Have you ever felt invisible? When?
What did it feel like?
What did you do about it?
- Based on Finn's descriptions of his dad, was he a good father?
What were some of the things he didn't do so well?
What did he do right?
How is Dad's remark about hitting curveballs applicable to Finn as Finn goes through the grieving process?
- Why does Finn say moms are practical while dads help you build a spaceship to Mars?
What are some differences between moms and dads?
What are some things each of them does especially well?
Why does God's ideal plan include both moms and dads?
What are some dad qualities that Finn especially misses after his father is gone?
- Where does Finn think his dad has gone after death?
Where does he believe he will end up after he dies?
Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
What do you think will happen to you?
Why do you believe this?
- Have you ever lost anyone close to you?
What did it feel like?
How long did it take you to heal?
What kinds of things remind you of him or her?
- Do you agree with Finn, that those who have died need people to keep their stories alive?
How does Finn keep his father's story alive?
Do you know anyone who has died (a parent, grandparent or friend) whose story you can tell to others?
What can others learn from what you say about your loved one?
- What are some things you fear?
What does Finn's mom say about fear?
How is fear like a monster?
How can fear be like a bug?
Where can we seek help when we are afraid?
Did Finn choose to let his fears become monsters or bugs?
- What are some of the theories people offer about why Finn's hair and skin turn white?
What do you think the reason is?
What makes them finally start returning to normal?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.