Best friends Hannah and Zoe understand each other, “like we’re some kind of Siamese twins connected at the soul.” Zoe is there when Hannah’s abusive father sends her out in a bikini to sell hot dogs, ostensibly to raise money for college. Hannah is there when Zoe bounces between moods of elation and despair, and makes sure Zoe stays properly clothed and relatively safe.
While Hannah is root-bound and comfortable living near the lake in their New Jersey town and crushing on Danny, the kid who drives the ice cream truck, Zoe is ready to fly. But after her father steals her hot dog money, Hannah reacts with uncharacteristic haste and agrees to take off on a road trip with Zoe.
The plot has a deliberately outlandish feel as Zoe sets out to teach practical Hannah about intangible qualities such as insouciance (by sleeping in an IKEA store) and audacity (by releasing the Kermit balloon before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.) But realism isn’t the point of The Museum of Intangible Things. It’s the steady flow of offbeat humor as well as Hannah and Zoe’s genuine bond that keeps readers fully invested in their story.
Secondary characters, such as Danny, Zoe’s younger brother; Noah, who has an “Asbergery thing”; and Hannah’s awful father are loosely sketched around the central drama of Zoe’s bipolar disorder. As the girls make their way west, Zoe burns as bright as the title character from John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and her exploits spin further from credulity. Hannah meets up with Danny at a gas station in Wyoming where their long-awaited romance ignites, leaving Zoe with enough freedom to complete her mad scheme. Quirky and bittersweet, this story will appeal to readers who have shared their lives with a best friend.
Diane Colson works at the Nashville Public Library. She has long been active in the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Association (YALSA), serving on selection committees such as the Morris Award, the Alex Award and the Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award.