I’ve loved stories set in boarding schools since I was a kid reading Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers (did you read that too?). But many of these boarding school stories often take place in western countries like the UK. So when I learnt that If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang was set in an international boarding school in Beijing, I quickly put a hold on the library ebook.
Alice Sun discovers that she has the power of invisibility. And she uses it to do favors and secret tasks for the other students – for a fee. She needs that money to pay for her school fees as her parents are no longer able to afford it. She enlists the help of academic rival Henry to build her an app, Beijing Ghost. (Which would have made a great title for the book, I reckon). She does make some questionable choices, and learns more about herself along the way.
I like how Liang uses the invisibility power to illustrate the idea of Alice feeling unseen by her peers, who are children of the wealthy and powerful of Beijing. But as she gets to know some of them better, she too realizes that these classmates are more than just the daughter of a famous model, the son of a rich businessman. The best part is that her rival Henry maybe doesn’t really see her as a rival at all? For me, their relationship was the best part of this book.
When it comes to her invisibility power, she can’t seem to control it and it just turns on and off without any explanation. Maybe I’m overthinking it but I would have preferred more details about this magical ability.
Still, this was a unique story in one of my favorite settings, the boarding school. And better still, a boarding school in Asia. It’s a story that my teenaged self would have lived, but as an adult I definitely appreciate it too.