Review of The School for Invisible Boys

The School for Invisible BoysThe School for Invisible Boys
by Shaun David Hutchinson
Intermediate, Middle School    Labyrinth Road/Random    304 pp.
2/24    9780593646298    $17.99
Library ed.  9780593646304    $20.99
e-book ed.  9780593646311    $10.99

Hutchinson’s (Howl, rev. 7/22) middle-grade debut is a captivating combination of dark fantasy and tween drama built on a cast of nuanced characters, methodical world-building, and suspenseful storytelling. Things go quickly downhill for Hector, a sixth grader at St. Lawrence’s Catholic School for Boys, after he asks his best friend, Blake, to be his boyfriend. Blake’s response is beyond hurtful, delivered with physical violence and homophobic name-calling (“he called me freak, except freak wasn’t the word he used”). Hector retaliates by lighting Blake’s science project on fire, leading to a harrowing chase scene through a church that, shockingly, results in Hector turning invisible. Layers of intrigue unfold, including Hector’s friendship with a ghost-like student; the puzzling arrival of a girl (who no one seems to notice is a girl) to the all-boys school; and the mysterious presence of a tentacled, student-abducting monster. Multiple secondary characters, close calls, and red herrings provide Hector not only with opportunities to better understand his newfound power but also with a sense of self as a sensitive, queer, and kind-hearted kid in a world that is often poisoned against difference. Hutchinson’s complex story line is dense with bewildering ideas yet is tempered by easily digestible chapters that often leave readers at the edge of a new discovery. While the novel is a complete story, the final page suggests continued adventures.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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