The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
Pub. Date: April 10, 2014
Source: ARC via author (Thank you, Wendy!!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Road trip!
I equate summertime with road trips. The windows down, the music up, your best friends right beside you. Is there really anything better? When I first heard about The Museum of Intangible Things I knew I needed to read it: two down-and-out girls from New Jersey leave behind their less-than-stellar lives in search of something bigger, grander. Not only did I get that, I also got a surprising amount of emotion and heartache.
Hannah and Zoe have always been there for each other. When they were children they swore they would always protect one another and each girl has made good on her promise. Zoe has no father to speak of, while Hannah’s in struggling in his AA meetings. They sneak off to a nearby ‘rich kid’ school and hide in the attic to listen in on lessons; there’s no way their school could ever afford classes like this. Hannah’s only chance at a better life lies with her grades and what money she’s able to make from selling hot dogs on the beach.
Zoe’s younger brother suffers from a form of Asperger’s where he cannot form or understand emotion. In an attempt to teach him what each emotion is, Zoe builds large displays in their basement – her Museum of Intangible Things. Each display shows – and explains – a concept: proud, sad, disappointment. Spontaneous plans aren’t uncommon for Zoe and she announces a road trip, she wants to show Hannah there’s more to life than following the rules and getting good grades.
Off the bat I should mention this is NOT a happy-go-lucky road trip book. Nope. Not. At. All. The Museum of Intangible Things was a wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous friendship novel (seriously, their love for each other shone through. I wasn’t told they were best friends, I felt it, I saw it), but it was also a heartbreaking look at mental illness, alcoholism, and the hopelessness of being unable to help someone you love. I’m not going to lie – I teared up more than once. By the time I finally caught on to where the ending was headed I hoped I was wrong, that it wouldn’t go that route. ..and when it did? It felt like a punch in the gut.
When the book wasn’t breaking my heart, it was a ton of fun! At one point Zoe and Hannah sneak into an Ikea and stay overnight. While I went along with it (and secretly, I would love to do something like that!), later on in the story I had a harder time believing. Not once, but twice Zoe vanishes and twice Hannah is able to find her. No, the girls aren’t lost in a mall or anything like that. Zoe took off in Las Vegas. Las Vegas. Somehow Hannah was able to find her again without too much trouble. Later in the novel Zoe flees once more – this time to the Grand Canyon – and again Hannah was able to find her far too easily.
Discussing The Museum of Intangible Things is no easy task. I want to talk about THINGS, but those things are massive spoilers. Even Events Leading Up To THINGS could potentially ruin the entire story, so I’m left with extremely vague thoughts. Sorry, guys! If you want to know more, you’ll have to grab a copy of this one and find out for yourselves. Then come find me – I need to talk about this book!
Who cares if we ever come back. Really, all those great songs about New Jersey were about getting the hell out of it.