Study Guide

Things Not Seen

By Andrew Clements

Things Not Seen Introduction

What's the worst thing that you could wake up with as a teenager? A stubborn cowlick? A giant pimple in the middle of your forehead? Um… how about an invisible body?

Things Not Seen (the first book in the Things Not Seen series) opens with a pretty unforgettable scenario: Fifteen-year-old Bobby Phillips wakes up on a seemingly normal day, only to quickly realize that everything has changed. And by everything, we mean that he is officially invisible. Though the book starts off on a nightmarish foot, it's ultimately a coming-of-age story geared toward adolescents. And Andrew Clements, who has written a whole slew of well-known young adult novels, certainly knows how to explore the pangs of growing up.

Interestingly, Bobby learns that he feels more seen when he's invisible than he ever did while leading a visible life. Back in his old life, his parents didn't listen to him and girls treated him like he was invisible (yep—it's true), but now that he's invisible, he learns more about himself. He's able to gain his parents' respect and is way more attractive to the ladies—or at least one lady in particular.

It's not easy being fifteen and invisible, but Bobby Phillips rises to the occasion spectacularly. And did we mention that he runs around town naked for much of the book? Because he does. Which makes this book pretty unusual in its own right. Plus, if you like it, there are two more books that come after—Things Hoped For and Things That Are. So take off your pants, and settle in with the first installment in the Things Not Seen series.

What is Things Not Seen About and Why Should I Care?

You may be thinking: "Why should I care about some fictional kid who turns invisible? It's not like that's ever going to happen to me." Fair enough, Dear Reader, fair enough. But Things Not Seen isn't just a story that appeals to kids who belong at the X-Men Mutant Academy… No, it's a story about learning who you are as a person and taking your own life into your hands, regardless of what people say you can and cannot do.

Have you ever felt like your life is out of control? That's how Bobby Phillips feels when he wakes up to find that he's become invisible overnight. Suddenly, the things that he took for granted—going to school, seeing his friends, planning for his future—are all up in the air.

But instead of giving up or simply listening to whatever his parents tell him to do, Bobby decides to fight back. He doesn't just blindly listen when his parents say that he needs to stay at home all day until they can figure his situation out; instead, he goes out into the world and researches invisibility on the Internet. He doesn't completely isolate himself because it's safer, and because of this, he ends up making a new friend who helps him crack the mystery of his condition.

Even if you are just a kid and your parents are supposed geniuses (after all, Bobby's mom is a professor and his dad is an actual scientist), that doesn't mean that you can't know what's best for your own life. This is something that Bobby has to figure out for himself, and it's something we can all learn from.

Things Not Seen Resources


The Full List
Andrew Clements has written a whole glut of books for young adults. You can see them all here.

Articles and Interviews

The Invisible Man
In an interview with the New York Public Library, Andrew Clements admits that everyone feels invisible sometimes—even him.


Visit the Author
Check out this interview with Andrew Clements and see how he works when he's at home. You even get a glimpse of his tiny writer's studio!


Just Listen
If you'd rather listen to audio books like Alicia does, you can pick up the audio version here.


Don't Judge a Book…
… by its cover, and don't judge a dude by his appearance, either. After all, Bobby's a great guy but he's not much to look at (pun absolutely intended).

Fully Clothed
This fan made image for Things Not Seen gives you a sense of what Bobby looks like (or doesn't look like) when he isn't walking around in the nude.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it turns out that author Andrew Clements didn't base Things Not Seen off of his own appearances. He is completely visible.