Reviews > Published on July 25th, 2016

Bookshots: 'The Unseen World' by Liz Moore

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Unseen World

...if you generally like coming-of-age lit-fic titles with a strong undercurrent of mystery and shades of sci-fi, you're going to love 'The Unseen World'.

Who Wrote It?

Liz Moore, the award-winning author of Heft and The Words of Every Song. According to her website, "Moore's short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in venues such as Tin House, The New York Times, and Narrative Magazine."

Plot in a Box:

1980s Boston: After her brilliant, socially nonconformist father David begins to suffer the effects of early-onset Alzheimers, 14-year-old Ada Sibelius sets out to unravel his tangled past and solve a cryptic, coded message David left for her on a floppy disk. What will she learn about her father—and perhaps more importantly, about herself?

Invent a new title for this book:

The Cure

Read this if you like(d):

I'm coming up short on novels or works to compare this to, but if you generally like coming-of-age lit-fic titles with a strong undercurrent of mystery and shades of sci-fi, you're going to love The Unseen World.

Meet the book's lead(s):

Ada Sibelius, herself socially awkward, given her decidedly un-regimented homeschooling, and her formative years spent mostly around adults. She is, however, just as brilliant as her father, and learns to adapt rather quickly to her rapidly changing environment.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

We spend a good deal of time with adult Ada as well, so the film version would need both a teenager and a thirty-something for the part. Thus, in that order:

Ellie Kendrick (not technically a teenager, but she could pass) and Miranda July.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

I hear Boston is nice, though other scenes take place in San Francisco, and the latter's more my speed.

What was your favorite sentence?

Technically two, rolled into one thought:

She could not articulate what was different in his demeanor, but it triggered a deep-seated uneasiness in her. It was a hair in her mouth or sand in her shoe.

The Verdict

Liz Moore is quite the adept storyteller. She crafts a narrative that is suitable for girls the same age as Ada, but also teenage boys, adult men, adult women—really, anyone. She weaves together gorgeous and, at times, staggering sentences without sacrificing the work's accessibility. Her characters, furthermore, echo Moore's prose: intricate, certainly complex, but also relatable, identifiable, able to elicit empathy and sympathy from the reader. Ada and David, family friend Diana Liston and her children (especially William and Gregory), the other brilliant minds working at David's computer lab—they're all lovable and maddening in equal measures, just like real people.

Moore crafts a mystery narrative to serve as her novel's backbone, a means of carrying the plot along, even deploying a few crafty red herrings in the process. But solving the puzzle of David's past is not exactly the book's central function; rather, it plays a significant role in advancing Ada's maturation and her internal quest toward identity, toward figuring out who she is and what she wants at this strange and confusing time—strange and confusing for all 14-year-olds, but especially so for Ada, given that David and, by proxy, her entire world has completely changed seemingly overnight.

Overall, The Unseen World is a finely-tuned and engrossing novel, one that touches upon the world we knew in the past, the world we know now, and the world we've yet to meet—the future. 

About the author

Christopher Shultz writes plays and fiction. His works have appeared at The Inkwell Theatre's Playwrights' Night, and in Pseudopod, Unnerving Magazine, Apex Magazine, freeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel, among other places. He has also contributed columns on books and film at LitReactor, The Cinematropolis, and Christopher currently lives in Oklahoma City. More info at

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