Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Museum Of Intangible Things, by Wendy Wunder


2.5 Stars

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.

I’ll be honest: I picked this book up because of the gorgeous, tumblr-y cover along with the deep, tumblr-y title. Since I needed a light read (what’s new), I grabbed this book expecting it to be a fluffy, tumblr-esque, best friend- adventure story. I will say that there is a road trip involved and many adventurous, hipster-like antics that the characters engage in, but the overall message of The Museum Of Intangible Things is supposed to run deeper, to subjects like depression, anxiety, loneliness, and mental illness. By the way, this contains some minor spoilers toward the end, guys.

The Museum Of Intangible Things follows Hannah and Zoe, two best friends living in a small town off the coast of New Jersey.  Their lives aren’t particularly exciting, specifically Hannah’s, who’s trying to cope with her neglectful mother and her depressed, slightly manipulative weatherman father, while working as much as she can to make her own money and a life for herself. After Hannah has had enough of her father’s acts, Zoe convinces her to escape on a road trip across the country, using their desire to explore the “intangible things” in life (mostly Zoe’s desire). Through this road trip, Zoe enacts her infamous concept named “The Museum Of Intangible Things”, consisting of several demonstrations originally created for her autistic younger brother, made to educate on the many complicated concepts of living life, but now she teaches Hannah, on how to fully explore life and live and dream larger than she ever has.

I would say the largest concept in this book is the fact that Zoe has bipolar disorder – which isn’t really a spoiler since it’s revealed in the first few chapters. Most of the book is filled with Zoe’s “delusion”, as she talks of aliens whisking her away and other such hallucinations. I’m not quite sure if this is an accurate portrayal of someone suffering from bipolar disorder, but I don’t think it was handled realistically throughout the book. Hannah and Zoe have good chemistry together, probably because the “polar opposites best friend duo” trope was actually well-written in this case. I loved Hannah’s sarcastic, deadpan comments, and her little quirks here and there, but my main issue involves her decisions considering Zoe. Throughout this road trip, Zoe and Hannah get involved in some crazy behavior, mostly due to Zoe’s ideas, and never does Hannah actually think to herself, My friend is clearly mentally ill, I should probably get her help and not indulge in all these dumbass crimes?? She is half-blind to Zoe’s obvious struggle and is extremely lazy with how she deals with it, and this aspect is so incredibly unrealistic. Hannah actually never makes a move until that abrupt ending, but by that time, it is simply too late. I’m not even going to talk about the ending, y’all can experience that weirdness for yourselves.

Hannah and Danny are our romantic fix within this book, and unfortunately, while they were cute, the romance is tarnished by the sheer force and rushed nature of their combined, romantic development.  Hannah has had a crush on Danny, the ice cream truck dude for about a century, and it is suddenly announced to us towards the beginning that he has been crushing on her this whole time as well! Danny and Hannah’s other social/romantic life aspects are suddenly pushed aside by unrealistic excuses, just so they can automatically end up together. If that isn’t some BS, I don’t know what is. It is even progressed during Hannah and Zoe’s getaway in… a very absurd means you’ll need to read and absorb yourselves. I can’t say much without spoiling, but Danny and Hannah’s relationship is not layered, developed, or even realistic.

While The Museum Of Intangible Things was entertaining and unique, it unfortunately fell flat due to the immense unrealistic scenarios scattered throughout the book. I suppose you could embed the idea of this book being unrealistic before starting to read, but the concepts of road trip fun and mental illness were a bit too mismatched in the way it was executed. If y’all want something to fulfill the tumblr/hipster-y hole in your heart, this would be the book for you, but I wouldn’t take it too seriously.