A surprising, stunningly beautiful, and funny novel about a girl who turns invisible and, in the process, discovers who she really is, from the author of TIME TRAVELING WITH A HAMSTER
Twelve-year-old Ethel Leatherhead only meant to cure her acne, not turn herself invisible. But that's exactly what happens when she combines herbs bought on the Internet with time spent in a secondhand tanning bed. At first it's terrifying to be invisible . . . and then it's fun . . . but when the effect doesn't wear off one day, Ethel is thrown into a heart-stopping adventure. With her friend Boydy by her side, Ethel struggles to conceal her invisibility, all the while unraveling the biggest secret of all: who she really is. From the talented author of Time Traveling with a Hamster comes another utterly original, deeply poignant--and humorous--novel about a girl who, by disappearing, will write herself into your heart forever.
An Excerpt fromWhat Not to Do If You Turn Invisible
The actions of reaching down, picking up my ringing phone, finding the silent button, pressing it, and staring at the screen while the phone vibrates in my hand and then stops . . . all 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 must be a bit like watching a cartoon. Everyone knows that a cartoon, or any sort of film, for that matter, is really a sequence of still pictures. When you watch them quickly, one after the other, your brain fills in the gaps so that it doesn’t look all jerky.
I think that’s what my brain and eyes do in those two or three seconds that it takes to switch off my ringer. They just “see” my hand because they expect to see it there.
But not for long.
I blink, and look down at my phone on the floor. Then I look at my hand. I actually hold my hand in front of my face and turn it around.
It is not there.
OK, stop for a minute. Actually hold your hand in front of your face. I’ll wait.
It is there, isn’t it? Your hand? Of course it is.
Now turn it round and examine the other side. This is exactly what I was doing a few seconds ago, only my hand wasn’t--isn’t--there.
At this stage, I’m not scared or anything. More confused.
I think, That’s weird. Has the tanning bed affected my mind? Like, am I still half asleep, or dreaming, or having a hallucination or something?
I look down at my legs. They’re not there either, although I can touch them. I can touch my face. I can touch every bit of me, and feel it, but I just cannot see it.
I don’t know how long I’m sitting there, just looking again and again at where I should be. It’s several seconds, but probably not as long as a minute. I’m going through things in my mind, like: Has this happened before? Is this in any way normal? Is it my eyes--have I been temporarily blinded by the strong UV light? Except I can see other things--just not me.
Now I’m scared, and my breathing has become a bit rapid. I stand up and go to the sink in the corner of the garage, where there’s a mirror.
That’s when I scream. Just a little one--more a gasp, really.
Imagine, if you can, standing in front of a mirror and seeing nothing at all. Your face does not look back at you. All you can see is the room behind you. Or the garage, in this case.
After gasping, I realize what’s going on. I shake my head, smile, and even give a little chuckle. I tell myself, OK, so you must be dreaming. And--wow!--this is a vivid one! It really feels real. You know how some dreams are obviously dreams, even as you’re dreaming them? Not this one! This one is as real a dream as I have ever had, and I start to think it’s quite good fun. Nonetheless, I run through the Am I Dreaming? checklist, blinking, pinching myself, telling myself, Wake up, Ethel, it’s just a dream.
Except, when I’m done, I’m still there, in the garage. This is one stubborn dream! So I do it all again, and again.
Nope, not a dream.
Definitely not a dream. I stop smiling right there.
I close my eyes tight and nothing happens. That is, I feel my eyelids tightening, but I can still see. I can see around the garage, even though I know I have my eyes shut tight--screwed up, in fact.
I put my hands over my eyes, and I can still see everything.
In my stomach there’s a lurch of fear, dread, and terror, which is a horrible combination when they all come together. Without warning, I throw up into the sink, but I can’t see anything coming out. I hear it splatter. I taste the hot puke in my mouth. Then, in a second or two, it materializes as I watch: my half-digested cornflakes.
I run the tap to wash it away. I put my hand into the stream of water and the water takes its shape. I stare, awestruck, as I lift a palmful of water to my thirsty mouth and this bubble-like piece of water rises up before me. I suck it up, then look in the mirror again: for a second my lips are almost visible where the water has touched them. I can just make out the water as it starts to go down my throat, and then it’s gone.
I am consumed with a horror that is more intense than anything I have ever felt before.
Standing in front of the mirror, gripping the sides of the sink with my invisible hands, with my brain practically throbbing with the effort of processing this . . . this . . . strangeness, I do what anyone would do.
What you would do.
I scream for help.
“Gram! GRAM! GRAM!”
I’m going to tell you how I got to be invisible, and discovered a whole load of other stuff as well.
But if I’m going to do that, you need a bit of what my teacher Mr. Parker calls “backstory.” The stuff that led up to me being invisible.
Stick around for a couple of chapters. I’ll keep it brief, and then we’ll be back in the garage, with me being invisible.
However, the first thing I’d better do before I continue is to warn you: I am not a “rebel.”
I only say this in case you’re hoping I’m going to be one of those daredevil kids who are always getting into trouble and being “sassy” to grown-ups.
That is, unless you count becoming invisible as getting into trouble.
As for the time I swore at Mrs. Abercrombie: that was an accident, as I have said a thousand times. I meant to call her a “witch”--which, I admit, is rude enough in itself, but not as rude as the word I used by mistake, which rhymes with it. It got me into a lot of trouble with Gram. To this day, Mrs. Abercrombie thinks I’m a very rude girl, even though it was more than three years ago and I wrote her a letter of apology on Gram’s best notepaper.
(I know she’s still angry, because her dog, Geoffrey, snarls at me. Geoffrey snarls at everyone, but Mrs. Abercrombie always says, “Stop it, Geoffrey”--except when he snarls at me.)
Anyway, usually I just sit quietly at the back of the room at school, minding my own business, getting on with my stuff--la-la‑la, don’t-bother-me-and-I-won’t-bother-you kind of thing.
But you know what grown-ups say, in that way they have that’s designed to make them seem clever: “Ah, you see--it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?”
That’s me. A “quiet one.” So quiet that I’m almost invisible.
Which, come to think of it, is quite funny.