I am late to the party on Lisa Jewell’s phenomenal thrillers. Her super twisty novel from last year, The Family Upstairs, was my first time reading here and WOW! Read my review for that one here.
When I saw Invisible Girl was available on NetGalley, I couldn’t click “Request” fast enough, and was beyond excited when my request was accepted! It’s complex, gritty, and more than a little creepy.
Owen Pick is a thirty-something virgin who lives with his elderly aunt. When he gets suspended from his job as a geography teacher for inappropriate conduct toward his female students, he’s absolutely shocked and really doesn’t understand what he did wrong. His aunt is unsupportive – in fact, she seems convinced he’s guilty even though she doesn’t know the details. But, she’s always treated him with suspicion, relegating him to one room of her spacious apartment and generally acting like he’s a nuisance to her life.
Owen’s loneliness, isolation, and feelings of outrage over what he feels are baseless accusations, all combine to lead him down a dark path, and he soon stumbles into the online world of incels, and a charismatic forum leader named Bryn.
Meanwhile, across the street from Owen’s aunt’s apartment is the perfect family – or, at least, they seem that way to anyone who might glance their way. There’s Cate, a physiotherapist, and her husband Roan, a child psychologist. And their two children, Georgia, a confident and outgoing teenager, and Josh, a rather withdrawn and shy boy who is a couple years younger than Georgia.
And then there’s the girl who knows all of their secrets. Seventeen-year-old Saffyre Maddox was a patient of Roan’s, until he pronounced her cured and sent her on her way. Feeling alone and abandoned, she begins watching him, and then watching the whole family. It begins innocently enough as just something she does because she’s bored and lonely, but what she discovers will put her in grave danger.
I became invested super quickly in the characters, especially Josh, and to my complete surprise, Owen. Cate and Georgia felt more like filler than anything else, unfortunately. I kept expecting more depth to them, but it never came. Saffyre was really interesting, but not particularly realistic.
Overall, this book is a fascinating study on sexual assault / harassment, and really does the subject matter justice. Jewell does a fantastic job of creating a full character in Owen, when it would have been incredibly easy to make him one dimensional. I really appreciated his character arc and growth throughout the book. It was believable and hopeful.
Jewell certainly doesn’t shy away from dark themes and this book is full of them. I appreciated how she tackled the idea of predators being right in our midst and how often we fixate our fear on the wrong people – assuming the oddball, awkward guy is a threat while missing the darkness in the charismatic, accomplished man standing right next to us.
This was an engaging read that I’d definitely recommend to anyone who loves dark, twisty thrillers. I finished the book a few weeks ago and can’t say that the story itself has really stuck with me, though the themes have, and the book is absolutely worth a read.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Book cover image courtesy of Atria Books.