About this book
Thirteen-year-old Jewel has been holding her life together ever since her older sister, Charmaine, suddenly left home with no forwarding address. She tried to find Charmaine once, but that only brought her family to the attention of the police. Now Jewel keeps her head down at school, looks after her special-needs brother as well as she can, tries to steer clear of her parents and their shady friends.
Until one of her father’s friends comes into her bedroom at night, and finally Jewel understands why Charmaine had to leave home. Soon she is on the run herself, hiding out in a cabin in the country, terrified of being found, afraid that social services will force her to return to her family. When her food runs out, she returns to town where she chances upon a new place to live — the cupboard of the art room at school.
Jewel carefully eases into her new life, avoiding the eye of teachers and caretakers, babysitting in the afternoons for extra cash. It turns out to be surprisingly easy to live under the radar when you have perfected the art of being almost invisible.
That is, until Jewel’s classmates, Maya and Lily, discover her washing her hair in the girls’ washroom at school and making breakfast in the lunchroom. They are eager to help her, and they take her on as their project, sort of like the Barbie dolls that they rescue from yard sales and restore to sell on the internet. They find her places to sleep, fix her hair and wardrobe — even as they can’t quite understand her terror, or why she is so afraid of seeking adult help. But the girls help keep Jewel and her secret safe — until they no longer can.
Told in the alternating voices of Maya and Jewel, this is a thought-provoking and moving story about loyalty, privilege, keeping secrets, and what it means to be a good friend.
All of a sudden I decided what I really, really wanted was a bath...
I heated water on the woodstove, four big pots, the most I could fit on top. I put more logs on the fire and left the door open so it was roaring. By the time the water was warm enough, the kitchen felt like a tropical paradise.
The dishpan was big enough for me to get both feet in. I wiped it out with snow and set it on the floor next to the stove. Then I half-filled it with hot water, cooled down with more snow so I wouldn’t scald myself ...
The one piece of soap left had teeth marks where the mice had been eating it. I soaped myself all over and used dish detergent for my hair. My breast still had a yellow bruise on it like a hand, and my ankle had gone black. I caught sight of myself in a little mirror hanging on the wall: a pale, skinny ghost with hollows for eyes.
I trickled a pot of warm water over my head and then another. It felt lovely...
And then I heard a noise.
Heavy footsteps crashed up to the door, like someone in an awful hurry. I grabbed my dirty T-shirt and wrapped it around me and crouched down in the dishpan. My back was to the door and I was too petrified to turn around.
They found me.
About the Author
MAUREEN GARVIE is a former teacher, journalist and librarian who now works as an editor for McGill-Queen’s University Press. She grew up in Kingston, Ontario, and returned there after a long stint living and teaching in New Zealand. She is the author of three books for young readers, including George Johnson’s War, co-written with Mary Beaty (Groundwood, 2002), Lake Rules (Key Porter, 2005) and Amy by Any Other Name (Key Porter, 2009). Maureen now lives in Kingston on the shores of the St. Lawrence, in the same house where she grew up.
Awards and Praise
Almost Invisible does what the best YA books do: creates a sense of a world apart from the clueless, and at times cruel, grown-up one that must eventually be joined but not quite yet. — Quill & Quire
Reviews of Amy by Any Other Name (Key Porter, 2009):
“This character-driven tale invites readers to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and look beyond surfaces for the basic human needs of love, understanding, and connection.” — Booklist
“...an urgent, can’t-put-it-down read featuring powerful, fascinating characters and thoughtful ideas.... “– CM Magazine