This graphic novel, pitched for 8-12 year olds, is the story of Emmie, a middle schooler who is so shy and introverted that she feels invisible. It’s also the story of Katie, who is sort of the anti-Emmie, and what happens when Emmie and Katie’s worlds collide.
Emmie and Katie take turns narrating this story, which takes place over the course of a day at school. Emmie is the youngest of three kids, and the only one still living at home with her parents. Emmie describes herself as someone who really doesn’t stand out. She’s not a brilliant student like her friend Brianna, although she does ok in school. She’s not a super nerd or a jock. She doesn’t feel as if she is really outstanding at anything, but she does love art and drawing. Emmie is painfully shy and withdrawn, and she gets knots in her stomach at the thought of walking down a crowded hallway or even just walking into a classroom full of other kids. She doesn’t make eye contact, look up or speak to others, except for Brianna, her friend since kindergarten.
Katie, on the other hand, is super popular and good at everything — an athlete, an A student, loved by all and beautiful to boot. Katie is an extrovert who oozes confidence and barely notes the existence of Emmie until Emmie gets picked on by a boy in the class and Katie realizes that she and Emmie both have a crush on the same classmate. Emmie is dying of embarrassment and is having the worst day of her life. Katie thinks she might be able to help.
The conceit behind this story is extraordinarily clever and I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice it to say that before the day is over, Emmie is going to find a way to be less invisible in class and less fearful of speaking up. She might even make a new friend or two. This novel features a positive, affirming and uplifting message for kids who are introverted and feel marginalized. Libenson’s writing is humorous (I especially love the girl who rushes into the bathroom with an intestinal emergency every time Emmie is in there), and the drawings are bold and appealing. If you or your young reader are fans of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, you’ll want to check out Invisible Emmie.