The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Number of Pages: 304
Release Date: April 10, 2014
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.
From the moment I saw this book I knew I wanted to read it. I immediately fell for that gorgeous cover, but more than that, I absolutely adore books that focus on strong female friendships. My high school life was all about my girlfriends. Yes, I was obsessed with the cute boy in my algebra class, but my life revolved around my friends, so I'm always happy to see books that focus on the best friend more than the boyfriend. That said, I'm pretty torn on this one. The friendship is strong and is absolutely the focus, but this book wasn't at all what I was expecting and often drifted into unbelievable territory.
The Museum of Intangible Things follow best friends Hannah and Zoe living in a small New Jersey town. Hannah is the responsible one. She is smart and committed to making a decent future for herself. Her parents are divorced and both are wrecks. Her mother is a depressed, non-entity, and her father is a recovering alcoholic who works at the local news station as a weatherman. Even though he could probably help out his daughter for college, he refuses on the basis that she will probably just end up pregnant anyway so it would be a waste of money. In hopes of at least going to the local community college, Hannah runs a fairly successful hot-dog cart at the lake and little league games. Hannah is in love with a classmate who drives an ice cream truck and even though he has a girlfriend, things seem to be progressing in that department after a run-in at a party. When her father falls off the wagon in spectacular fashion and Zoe completely shuts down after the same party, though, Hannah starts to falter.
Zoe is the wild child. She lives with her single mother and her younger brother who has Asperger's Syndrome. The title of the book comes from the "museum" that Zoe runs for her little brother in the basement of their house in order to teach him social cues and human emotions. She puts up installations like "pride" or "laziness" which he studies and tries to internalize. Zoe herself suffers with manic depression, and the story takes a dramatic turn when, after laying in bed catatonic for a week, she all of a sudden shows up at Hannah's house the day before Thanksgiving demanding that Hannah go with her on a road trip. Zoe wants to teach Hannah some life skills like how she does with her brother, only on the road instead of the basement.
This is where the book started to fall apart for me a little which is a shame because I love a good road trip. I don't usually do bullet points in my reviews, but because I'm so torn, it just seems like the best way to show the pluses/minuses.
What I did love about this book:
- Hannah and Zoe's friendship. I loved how this book focused on their relationship and how close the two girls were. Again, when I was in high school, my life was all about my friends and I found their friendship both admirable and realistic.
- The "museum". I loved the idea of Zoe trying to teach her little brother about human emotions through a wide array of rotating installations.
- The romance. Ok, I didn't LOVE the romance, but there were some pretty sweet moments. I hated that Hannah's love interest was still involved with his long term girlfriend when things start to develop between them. Also, at one point he grabs her hand and puts it on his dick after they've kissed, like, once--which is just no.
- The way mental illness was handled. Mental illnesses like manic depression are hard to write about, and I always admire authors who are willing to write about the subject.
- The epilogue.
- The writing. There is some beautiful writing to be found throughout the novel. Even though I didn't end up loving this, I would definitely pick up another book by this author.
- While I really liked their close friendship, I never really connected with either girl. I wanted to shake Hannah for putting up with her stupid father and wish she would have put her foot down a bit more with the love interest. On the other hand, Zoe was just SO much. Again, manic depression is a serious topic, but when she starts her downward spiral, I just found it so hard to connect with her.
- I don't want to give anything away, so I'm not going to touch the second/road trip part of the story, but I just found so many things that happen completely unbelievable. There is supposed to be a feeling of is it happening...but just too much happens that had me shaking my head or rolling my eyes.
If you've read this one, I would LOVE to talk to somebody about it. If you are so inclined, please PM me through twitter or send me an email.
*I received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review.*