Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill/April 10, 2014
How Did I Get It? Gift from my mom!
Synopsis from Goodreads: Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).
Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.
As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.
An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.
If I could sum up The Museum of Intangible Things in one word, it would be unexpected. Due to the bright cover, and the whimsical title, I expected something really fun and airy – a summer road trip full of adventure and self discovery. And I did get that, but not in the fun, summery way I had been thinking. This actually wasn’t even set in summertime – it was right around Thanksgiving, and it was much darker than the cover leads you to believe. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and while it was sobering, there was a gentle strain of hopefulness that really lifted my heart when I closed the final page.
First of all, the writing. It was beautiful, in an abstract, whimsical sort of way. Some of the descriptions are really out of the box, but the writing style really reinforced the mentality of the whole trip. My favorite paragraph was right near the beginning:
Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.
Which leads me to the characters: Zoe and Hannah. Hannah is the grounded one, the voice of logic, but also a fixer and covers up for everyone by giving too much of herself. Zoe is bipolar, and swings from her highs and lows with no warning, easily succumbing to the inflated sense of self and listening to the delusions in her head. I have a family member with bipolar disorder, so I’m pretty confident when I say that Wunder portrays the disorder very well. Hannah doesn’t always deal with it well (hello – humoring a manic episode-fueled road trip is not the wisest decision to make), but she does the best she can, and I easily recognized that sense of helplessness when she tried to understand and help Zoe.
As for the plot, I’ll admit that it took me a while to really get into the story. In fact, the first half had me a bit bored, but the second half completely gripped me. There were some parts that seem overly convenient, but I could ignore it easily enough. The one thing that really bothered me was the whole romance between Hannah and Danny: it was far too instalovey, and it just didn’t work for me at all. It took away the attention from Zoe and Hannah’s friendship, ultimately, and it’s the main reason why I didn’t give the book five stars.
The last chapter… wow. Stick a dagger in my heart and it’d be less painful. But at the same time it was filled with hope for the future – if a bit bittersweet. I didn’t see the ending coming at all when I started the book, but as the last few chapters concluded, I had that sinking feeling in my chest that I just knew where it was going. And honestly, I applaud Wunder for taking that plunge! It was a bold ending, but I felt it fit the book perfectly.
I highly recommend this book, but with a warning that this is not a light road trip read like you would think! It deals with a lot of heavy subjects in an unflinching, gritty way. But the ending is worth it, and I truly enjoyed it despite the rocky start.
My Final Rating: