This was an outstanding book and I don’t want to give too much away so I apologize for the brevity of my review. Just know that I emphatically recommend Liz Moore’s The Unseen World!
Ada Sibelius is being raised by her single father, David, in late 1970s Boston. Like her father Ada is very intelligent, prodigal even. She is home schooled by her father at his research lab in everything from computer science to literature and while she has no friends her own age she is very close with her father’s colleagues primarily his second in command, Liston. Liston and David’s work is focused heavily on an artificial intelligence-like program called Elixer.
“If a machine can convincingly imitate humanity—can persuade a human being of its kinship—then what makes it inhuman? What, after all, is human thought but a series of electrical impulses?”
Shortly after we are introduced to the Sibelius family David begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s and, after a brief period of Ada taking on the role of parent, David is moved into a home and Ada goes to live with Liston and her sons. While Ada struggles with the culture shock of attending high school, living with other teenagers and general adolescence it is discovered that David might not be who he said he was but his degenerative disease makes it difficult to get the truth. Long after David forgets who Liston and Ada are he continues to ask after Elixer.
Ada and the reader are taken on a decades long journey to unravel the enigma of Ada’s father. It’s not all mystery; Ada has typical teenage struggles like unreciprocated crushes, frienemies and the unfairness of the high school social hierarchy. The Unseen World is beautifully written. At its core this is a story about a remarkable young woman whose life takes an unforeseen detour but Moore masterfully sprinkles mystery throughout her emotional narrative. I think the only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the flash forwarding to the present day but I think the epilogue explains that choice pretty well so I won’t complain.