How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd (Atheneum Books, June 2023) is a survival story as well as a moving example of child abandonment and homelessness, but it also stands strong as a story of friendship and finding oneself. Twelve-year-old Raymond has never felt close to anyone, with his parents frequently moving at will and Raymond having to start at new schools frequently in one year. One day his parents move without him, and Raymond must figure out how to stay alive, keep attending middle school, and move on with his life without adult support.
Raymond has know-how, and he takes his fishing pole into the woods behind the middle school, where he sets up camp with his dog Rosie. Each day, Raymond returns to middle school, where he gets free lunch and continues his education. Raymond is a smart kid, and he uses his smarts to set up traps to catch animals, make fires using unique resources, and keep himself warm during the early winter months. As it gets colder in his woods, Raymond’s teachers start to notice his declining school work, because Raymond must spend his after school time surviving rather than finishing home work.
Raymond’s story is not just one of survival and struggle with homelessness, and it is not just his teachers that care for his success. Finally, since he is staying somewhere for more than a few months, Raymond is able to start making friends (despite his wish to stay anonymous). Harlin and Lexi from his class reach out to him. A lone coyote in the woods keeps watch over him during the night. And while fishing in the creek, Raymond meets a lonely old man, Stigs, who gives Raymond support. Stigs could determine that Raymond’s situation was not good, but he lets Raymond be, even while checking up on him. Raymond and Stigs support and encourage each other, and Raymond finds the first inklings of what a loving caregiver can be.
Raymond’s story doesn’t end all neat and pretty. Raymond has some tragedies, especially when his situation is found out. He isn’t going to get what he really wants (one could argue he doesn’t know himself either), and we as the reader don’t quite know what will happen to him either. Even with the unknowns, the reader does know that Raymond will find peace and happiness at some point in the future, and now he knows the joy of friendship. Raymond learned the importance of friendship, caring for each other, and finding one’s place. Despite the title of this book, How to Stay Invisible inevitably is a about the goodness of the world. His book is not about staying invisible but rather about finally being seen.
I read a digital review copy of this book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.