The Museum of Intangible Things

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?A crisp, beautifully crafted story of adventure, love, and the limits of friendship??
?Booklist (Starred Review)

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 ...

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The Museum of Intangible Things

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“A crisp, beautifully crafted story of adventure, love, and the limits of friendship…”
Booklist (Starred Review)

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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wunder (The Probability of Miracles) tackles friendship and mental illness in this nuanced second novel about two best friends: intelligent, grounded narrator Hannah and charismatic Zoe, who has bipolar disorder. A strong setting roots the narrative as the girls bide time in their dead-end New Jersey town. When Hannah’s alcoholic father steals her meager college funds (earned selling hot dogs), and a playboy mistreats Zoe, prompting a manic episode, the two girls embark on a cross-country road trip. Wunder believably escalates Zoe’s mania, documenting her lack of sleep and appetite, racing thoughts, grandiosity, and belief that she communicates with aliens. Along the way, Zoe attempts to instruct the ever-practical Hannah in such intangibilities as audacity, insouciance, and love. As Zoe’s illness escalates, so does the danger, and a perceived betrayal causes Zoe to desert Hannah; to find her, Hannah contacts her crush in New Jersey, introducing a first love storyline. A cast of well-rounded and memorable characters and a realistic perspective on mental illness make for a thought-provoking story. Ages 14–up. Agent: Sara Shandler, Alloy Entertainment. (Apr.)
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Liz Gotauco
Hannah and Zoe are stuck in the lower-class murk of a lakeside town in New Jersey, but they are getting by. Hannah is saving for college by selling hot dogs, and Zoe has high aspirations for fashion school. But the world seems set to bring them down: Hannah’s alcoholic father drains her college fund, and a devastating tryst with a local rich kid sends Zoe into a fathomless depression—not her first. When Zoe’s mom decides to hospitalize her (again), Zoe and Hannah set off on a road trip, in which Zoe hopes to revitalize Hannah’s life with the “intangible things” she has yet to experience. The title creates a gorgeous framework for this story. Zoe created said “museum” to teach emotions to her brother, Noah, a science fiend with Asperger’s. Each chapter is titled an “intangible thing” Hannah experiences on their trip, and what could have been a hokey gimmick is beautifully explored. Zoe’s own quest is tragically intangible, as the hallucinations she experiences from her bipolar disorder make her believe she is destined for an alien planet. Hannah often relates her own emotions with space imagery—lithium as “stardust” and heartbreak as “a black hole in the center of [her] chest,” drawing interesting similarities between her, Zoe, and Noah. Both adult and teen characters are complicated, and mostly sympathetic. Some of the circumstances of the girls’ trip seem far-fetched, but they are highly entertaining. Hannah is an appealing narrator, balancing drama with self-deprecating and sometimes unexpected punch lines. Hand this to (girly) fans of Steven Chbosky. Reviewer: Liz Gotauco; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Hannah and Zoe are smart and creative teens living in a New Jersey lake community. Unfortunately, neither girl has the same fun-filled, picturesque lifestyle typical of other teens in the area. Hannah looks after her alcoholic parents and works hard selling hot dogs to save money for college. Zoe has bipolar disorder and struggles with manic and depressive periods. Their school is underfunded, with minimal academic offerings, so the girls sneak into the attic of an upscale private school in order to listen to classroom sessions and get a look at the lives of the rich. Things begin to spiral out of control after they crash a party hosted by a student at Sussex Country Day. Zoe enters the depressive phase of her illness and faces an uncertain future. Hannah discovers that her father drained her savings account for his own use. Then Zoe shifts into total mania and urges Hannah to travel with her on a cross-country car trip where they can escape, find adventure, take risks, and discover themselves. The pace of the plot increases exponentially from this point as the girls find themselves on a journey of increasingly wild experiences. The often-humorous cultural references to clothing styles and retail stores, music (especially Bruce Springsteen), national landmarks, and television will resonate with teens who are trying like Hannah and Zoe to manage life's challenges. The characters are well developed, and Hannah's fluid narration will keep the pages turning until the novel's complex and bittersweet conclusion.—Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH
Kirkus Reviews
An unexpected love story with a wild road trip to boot. Type A Hannah and bipolar Zoe have been inseparable friends since they were 10. Hannah is known around their New Jersey lakeside town as "the hot dog girl" since her alcoholic weatherman father refuses to pay for college, forcing her to earn money "selling meat in the shape of a phallus to predatory commuters on the way to the city"—she's accustomed to putting her own needs last. But all of that is about to change. In episodic chapters characterized by frank dialogue and Hannah's biting wit, Zoe's depression turns to mania, and faithful Hannah rides across the country with free-spirited Zoe as she chases the weather. While Hannah helps Zoe work through the episode, Zoe gives Hannah "intangible lessons" in insouciance, audacity, betrayal, destiny, luck, and how to live and feel. And while Hannah starts to try out these new feelings on longtime crush Danny, the real love here is between Hannah and Zoe. In a finely crafted blend of heartbreak and humor, Hannah begins to see the reality of Zoe's disorder. A touch of magical realism throughout leaves the bittersweet ending open to interpretation and allows readers to overlook a few improbabilities. Fans of the author's The Probability of Miracles (2011) will discover more of life's possibilities and wonder. (Fiction. 14-18)
From the Publisher
“A crisp, beautifully crafted story of adventure, love, and the limits of friendship…”
“A finely crafted blend of heartbreak and humor…”
“A cast of well-rounded and memorable characters and a realistic perspective on mental illness make for a thought-provoking story.”
Publishers Weekly
“…beautifully explored…highly entertaining…Hand this to (girly) fans of Steven Chbosky.”
“Hannah’s fluid narration will keep the pages turning until the novel’s complex and bittersweet conclusion.”
School Library Journal
“Zoe is a complex character who in addition to being bipolar is also intelligent, loyal, and funny. Tragically, however, it’s Zoe’s illness that brings this outstanding novel—and an inspiring friendship—to a heartbreaking but inevitable conclusion.”
Horn Book
“Nobody writes true, messy, gorgeous friendship like Wendy Wunder. The Museum of Intangible Things is wrenching and real.”
Katie Cotugno, author of How to Love
The Museum of Intangible Things is the best kind of joyride: exhilarating and hilarious and full of heart. A must-read for anyone who has ever had - or longed for - a true best friend.” 
Alexandra Coutts, author of Tumble and Fall
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595145147
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 4/10/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 152,671
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Wunder (yes, that is her real name) is also the author of The Probability of Miracles. When she's not writing or spending time with her family, she teaches yoga in Boston.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I had really high hopes for The Museum of Intangible Things beca

    I had really high hopes for The Museum of Intangible Things because I loved Wendy Wunder's previous novel, The Probability of Miracles (Review here). First of all, she is blessed with beautiful book covers as well as very memorable book titles! The Museum of Intangible Things first got my attention because of the road trip aspect. You guys know how much I love road trips in my books! also, it is a best friend novel and I sometimes love my friendship books, void of romance. Overall, I did enjoy this book but I did have a couple of issues with it that didn't allow me to enjoy this novel as much as her previous one. This book fails to mention something very important, that it deals with a psychological disorder. One of the friends, Zoe, has bipolar syndrome. The road trip.. wasn't a fun road trip, it was about doing whatever Zoe wanted, and Hannah following her and hoping she doesn't drive off the edge this time. I do like her loyalty to her best friend, it is something I admire very much, but I hoped the way everything was handled had been handled differently. Also, the road trip? took over 100 pages for it to happen. You guys know how much I dislike when the synopsis mentions something that doesn't happen immediately in the book. I would have preferred not knowing they'll be going on a road trip because I was waiting for it as soon as I started reading. Also, the writing made me a bit uncomfortable, maybe it was how true it was to what teenagers think and go through nowadays but I just disliked the way these characters talked and thought.. it made me like them a bit less (am I making sense) but maybe this is just a case of "it's not you, it's me" where the author purposely did this to not romanticize teens' lives because I know we all want our YA characters to live happily ever after. However there are things I highly enjoyed in this novel and the first is the labeling of every chapter. Through the road trip, Zoe is teaching Hannah to ease up on life and to, for once, think about herself instead of her sorry excuse of a dad and barely present mother. I really liked the connection between the two girls and how even in the middle of all the crap they're going through, they still stuck by each other and wanted the best for each other (yes, even Zoe who tends to get her way with things). It was basically two girls against the world and it was refreshing to read YA contemporary novel with minimal romance (yes, there is a very diluted romance in there). I would definitely recommend it to contemporary fans who want to try something different.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2014

    This book is a great read- check it out!

    I loved this book. I love realistic fiction and I thought this book was filled with great characters that you can really connect to! I loved it and I think you should check it out!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    Beautiful and exceptional expression of love and friendship.

    Beautiful and exceptional expression of love and friendship.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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