Tonya Alexandra’s debut novel The Impossible Story of Olive in Love is heartbreaking and beautiful, a story for anyone who has ever felt invisible. Olive is invisible. Yes, literally invisible. Her family was cursed by a gypsy two generations ago, and that means Olive is invisible to everyone but her true love. Her mother, too, had this curse, but she died a few years earlier. Her father has taken off to “find himself”, and her sister is frustratingly perfect. Olive has one close friend, Felix, but he’s blind, and thinks she’s making the invisible thing up for attention. It is enough to make anyone bitter, as Olive understandably is.
At seventeen, Olive has never been able to go to school (after all, how do you explain an invisible student?), and so she spends her days writing gossip columns for a cool magazine, and sneaking into clubs (hey, at seventeen, you don’t need ID). Her sister, Rose, and Felix are understandably worried about her, but how could they understand? So Olive just drifts on, day after day, understandably frustrated about her lot in life. Besides Felix, her one other friend thought she was an imaginary friend, and Olive can’t even reach out and tell her otherwise. After all, having an invisible friend is enough to get anyone locked up.
But then Olive meets him. Tom. Her true love. She’s snuck into a bar, and he sees her – the very first person to ever see her. She’s understandably shocked, and a little snarky, but for some reason, Tom wants to see her. Again. And Again. But how do you date someone who doesn’t know you’re invisible? When is the right time to tell them, if ever? How do you fall in love with someone, when you can’t meet their friends or their family? And even worse – what if her true love is wrong for her? Mr Right feels like Mr Wrong, but he can see her, so Tom has to be her true love… right? And then there’s the catch to the curse which Olive hasn’t even gotten to yet…
Alexandra’s debut novel is brilliant and compelling. All of the characters are dynamic and personality filled, even aside from Olive, whose snarkiness and intellect will bring more than a few chuckles. Olive is strong and independent, and better yet, she makes mistakes. A flawed protagonist gives The Impossible Story of Olive in Love a delightfully honest tone, and you’ll spend time shaking your head at her, but cheering her on all the same.
While The Impossible Story of Olive in Love may seem like a romance, there’s more to this YA novel than that. It’s about friendship and family, and most of all, it’s about not letting yourself be invisible. Olive goes on a journey to find a way to make herself seen, and she won’t give up til she’s done it. Alexandra paints a beautiful message to young teens; it’s okay to be smart, to be feisty, to be different. It’s cool to be yourself. And most importantly, you don’t need to a boy to be seen. You just need to be you.
Tonya has worked in marketing, travel and publishing for just under twenty years, writing for print, TV and online. She lives near Manly in Sydney with her husband, three sons and puppy Lola. She is on the committee of the CBCA northern suburbs branch, and believes in promoting reading and writing for mental health.
Buy your copy of The Impossible Story of Olive in Love here, and read a little snippet from Olive herself here! Follow Better Reading Kids on Facebook for more Olive and kids recommendations.