Book review

What not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford (2017)

Yes, definitely invisible. Ethel Leatherhead definitely turns properly invisible. You might think that with acne that bad she would be pleased to be invisible, but actually, Ethel would really much rather not.

It happens like this: Ethel has terrible acne and suddenly realizes that she isn’t the only one who has noticed. The rest of the world has noticed too, especially everyone at school:

Jarrow Knight – who else? - shouted, ‘Pizza delivery!’ when I walked in the class, and pretty much everyone laughed. Not a LOL sort of laugh – more a spluttering cackle. Most people in my class are not actually cruel.

So, OK, ‘pizza face’ = acne. It’s not subtle. And it’s not going to boost Ethel’s self confidence. I don’t know what you’d do in the same situation, but this is what Ethel does...she acquires secret supplies of Dr Chang His Skin So Clear remedy, and a second hand sunbed from the local tanning shop closing down sale. Her Definitely Not Friend Elliot Boyd helps her push it home and into the garage. Her Gram will never notice it in there.

Well, Ethel never meant Elliot Boyd to be her friend. He’s the new kid in class that no one really warms to because he’s loud and awkward. The way Ethel sees it, he just started to hang around her locker after school if – just because we shared part of the route home – we should automatically be friends.
Fat. Chance.

Or maybe actually Ethel is in fact quite nice to Elliot and he badly needs a friend. Anyway, it turns out that an unintended consequence of combining Dr Chang His Skin So Clear potion and UV light treatment is to render the unsuspecting patient completely invisible. It takes Ethel a moment to work out what has happened:

Standing in front of the mirror, gripping the sides of the washbasin 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!’

Gram’s having none of it. She’s out and she doesn’t believe a word of it on the phone. It’s actually Elliot Boyd who turns up on Ethel’s doorstep just exactly at the moment when she most needs a friend. And it’s Elliot Boyd who helps her through her most invisible moments. Of course they have a bit of fun with invisibility along the way and as they do, those little tendrils of friendship begin to invisibly bind Ethel and Elliot.

So in the end, it seems, Gram really did know best all along. Like she always said:

‘If you want a good friend, then be a good friend.’

What can I read next?

Loved this book. It’s fun and funny, but you can see real life in there too. It’s tough being a teenager. If you enjoyed this book you might like to have a look at these other brilliant reads also by Ross Welford:

  • Time Travelling with a Hamster
  • The 1,000 year old Boy

For a similar, light touch, humorous writing style, you could have a look at this lovely story about children literally trying to find themselves, by Katherine Rundell:

If you enjoyed following the thread about identity and lost family you might like to look at this book by Anne Fine:

Or this satisfying story by Jacqueline Wilson:

On the other hand if you really enjoyed the scary transformational feelings that some teenagers appear to experience, you might enjoy a laugh with this book by Dirk Walbrecker:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

What not to do if you turn Invisible features in these lists: