Once upon a time 12-year-old Finn Garrett was what we'd call a normal kid. Although he formerly enjoyed his friends, family and his cat, all of that has changed now. Since his father's untimely passing, Finn's life is upside-down.
First of all, Finn's appearance is changing by the minute: once an average-looking kid with dark hair and pinkish skin, Finn now finds his hair turning white, and his formerly pink skin becoming chalky. Deeply disturbed, Finn reasons that he is fading way, disappearing. So before he is gone for good, he decides to tell his story in this memoir-within-a-novel, The Last Invisible Boy.
Part journal and part graphic novel, the book flows with a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Finn's memoirs reflect a wry innocence combined with the pain of loss, making this outing a sweet, sorrowful look at grieving and healing. We amble along with fretful Finn, in and out of his semi-catastrophic days, as he introduces us to his many interests, touching on just about everything except "The Terrible Day That Changed Everything": the day his father died.
Finn repeatedly reflects on his wonderful memories, reveals the highlights of his friendship with good pal Melanie and shares his insatiable interest in etymology. We may agree with Finn's claims that his thoughts resemble a "runaway bus," but we are routinely amused and touched as he regales us with tales of his "spaceship flights," love of astronomy, numerous cemetery visits and his nonstop worries about invisibility. Finn even provides detailed information about his visits to the school district psychologist, but we do not learn details of Finn's father's death until well after the halfway point in this starkly original book.
Author Evan Kuhlman's effective attempt at dealing with death and bereavement follows his adult novel, Wolf Boy, which covered similar terrain. J.P. Coovert's simple black-and-white illustrations enhance the good-humored tone of The Last Invisible Boy, and ensure that Finn comes to life as a believable character the reader won't soon forget.
Andrea Tarr is a librarian and freelance writer in Alta Loma, California. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
After his father's death, twelve-year-old Finn Garret's hair starts to turn white, causing him to believe he is becoming invisible. Finn's meandering journal explores many facets of dealing with grief, though it can be, by turns, too self-aware and too lighthearted to be truly believable as written by the character. Black-and-white cartoon art throughout tracks Finn's slow disappearance and reemergence. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 September #2
Grief-stricken after the sudden death of his father, Finn starts turning invisible in this magical-realism tale of recovery. Finn's story starts in media res, his father dead and his invisibility far progressed, with his skin the color of paper and his formerly brown hair whitening. When he returns to school sometime after the death, the bullying jeers about his freakish new coloring are his only distraction from the awkward attempts at sympathy from teachers and friends. Through a series of brief vignettes illustrated by Finn's own cartoons, he recalls his picture-perfect relationship with his father, from games of midnight baseball to father-son motorcycle rides. It takes time for Finn to recognize the grief of others--his mother, his grandfather--and to start on the path to recovery along with his mother and kid brother. Finn's poignant story is a quietly believable tale of one family's journey through grief. Coovert's cartoons add a nice touch of bittersweet humor. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 March/April
Told in short journal chapters with marvelous drawings interspersed, 12-year-old Finn slowly unravels the story of his life-changing summer. Finn fears he is becoming invisible, because outwardly his hair turns white and his skin loses all coloring. Inwardly he also feels invisible and is afraid he?ll disappear. His dad died suddenly, but it is not until two-thirds of the way through the book that Finn builds up courage to write of that terrible day. The journal entries help Finn gain a hold on his feelings and reality. Even though the story deals with loss, it is not melodramatic or sentimental. Instead, the journal helps Finn emerge from feeling invisible to normalcy when he celebrates emerging patches of black hair and pink skin. Author Evan Kuhlman deftly handles a tough topic with sensitivity and humor, and the animated drawings by J. P. Coovert add whimsy. An excellent selection for children dealing with loss of a parent, the book is also a good selection for reluctant readers. The short chapters and artwork make it a good transition between graphic novels and full-text novels. Recommended. Leslie Schoenherr, Librarian, Lexington (Massachusetts) Christian Academy ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 October #2
Were Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid to be suddenly bereaved, his next diary might approximate this painful but often funny novel, written by the author of the adult work Wolf Boy and illustrated by a debut graphic artist. Keeping a notebook, 12-year-old Finn Garrett explains in an early entry that a few months before, "a giant eraser fell from the sky and flattened me.... It's been erasing me from the world ever since." His father has died unexpectedly (in circumstances described only near the end), and Finn's black hair and pink complexion are gradually turning white (Coovert's cartoon shows a gray Finn looking into a mirror and seeing a vampire reflected back). As Finn remembers perfect moments with his father, avoids school as long as possible and compares his mother's and paternal grandfather's attitudes about death, he is made to see his pediatrician as well as a kindly school psychologist, who have their own theories about the "whiteness thing." Precise in his metaphors and his characterizations, Kuhlman delivers a study in coping with loss that middle-schoolers will want to absorb and empathize with. Ages 10-14. (Nov.)[Page 54]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-7--This illustrated novel, reminiscent in style of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams, 2007), is sure to have huge appeal. Finn Garrett tells the tender yet humorous story of how he begins to disappear following his beloved dad's sudden death. The 12-year-old awakens the morning after the day when everything changes to find a strand of white hair and less "pinkness" to his skin. Each day he grows whiter and less visible. He begins to write a memoir, which is really an account of his and his family's grief over their devastating loss. While poignant and sad, the book is ultimately upbeat as they begin to heal. At times Finn feels he is being erased because he failed to save his dad. At other times he wonders if he is aging in order to get closer to him. He recounts memory after memory, ultimately realizing the importance of them, and of being the keeper of his father's stories. Finn sees a therapist, and eventually he, his mother, his grandpa, his little brother, and his friend Melanie move beyond their initial pain. Finn's invisibility reverses itself and he becomes a boy who has managed to hold on to the world. The book's engaging, intimate tone is enhanced by Finn frequently addressing readers. Stop signs placed at points when he is overwhelmed with feeling add to the tenderness. The language and style are pitch-perfect middle school, and the illustrations ably capture the boy's memories and moods.--Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME[Page 130]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.