I read The Museum of Intangible Things immediately after finishing Great. Both of these novels fall into the young adult genre, but they could not have been more different. Great is a modern version of The Great Gatsby, and filled with fabulously wealthy teens behaving badly. Hannah and Zoe, the main characters in The Museum of Intangible Things, live in a rural part of New Jersey, where there have been cutbacks at the local high school, and no one has very much extra money.
The Museum of Intangible Things was written by Wendy Wunder. As I have mentioned, Hannah and Zoe are best friends. Hannah is the practical sort, and Zoe is much more esoteric. But, like they say, opposites attract, and somehow, they make their friendship work.
When a series of unfortunate events unfold all at once, Zoe talks Hannah into running away with her. They take off, and their first stop is a New Jersey IKEA store, and then to New York City. From there, they head west. They have plenty of money, in the form of countless rolls of coins. Zoe has a plan, and Hannah just goes along with it.
And therein lies the problem. Zoe has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and spends most of the novel in a manic phase. Hannah knows Zoe is a manic phase, but she goes along with Zoe’ schemes because she is a loyal friend.
When I use the word “problem”, I’m not trying to imply that there is something wrong with the book. But it is problematic that Hannah is put in a position where she has to choose between her friend’s happiness and her safety. I don’t want to say that Hannah allows Zoe to continue her grand scheme because that is a lot of responsibility to place on a teenage girl, but it is unfair that Hannah is placed in such a position. I think we all realize that Zoe’s energy is impossible for anyone to contain.
I should point out that mental illness is not presented in a humorous manner. This is a very bittersweet novel about a friendship between two girls who are tired of their mundane existence. Each has different reasons for embarking on their illicit road trip, but there are many shared lessons.
I would recommend The Museum of Intangible Things. I found it to be an incredibly moving novel. The characters were easy to relate to, even if their actions didn’t always make sense. I am definitely interested in reading Wunder’s other novel; her writing style is engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. If you would like some more information, you can find it here: The Museum of Intangible Things