Author: Natalie Whipple
Release date: May 21st 2013
Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.
Look, Mom, it’s a standalone! I feel like I haven’t read one since the 90’s. Such a rare bird! I totally want to dissect it.
In some ways, Transparent is a wonderful surprise. The worldbuilding is fairly simplistic, but that is far more preferable to a messy, underdeveloped world. During the Cold War, a pill was developed to neutralize the risk of radiation, only it had unforeseen consequences on DNA of those who took it (and of their children). Abilities like super strength, telekinesis, or even flying became a part of everyday life. There are sport teams and competitions especially for the gifted.
Most often, the gifted are somehow connected to the mafia. If someone has an ability the syndicate bosses can use, they always find a way to get that person to cooperate. Fiona’s father is one of those bosses, and to make matters worse, he is a Charmer. He uses his gift of persuasion to keep those who work for him compliant. Fiona and her mother tried to run from him many times, but he always found a way to bring them back.
Again on the run, they find a place for themselves in a small town where Fiona’s father can’t easily reach them. For the first time, Fiona is allowed to go to school and make friends. Naturally, she is mistrustful, careful not to get close to anyone. But two gifted families take her under their wing and Fiona is suddenly surrounded by friends and a boy she likes.
While it was both entertaining and well-paced, Transparent was far from being without problems. A couple of things made very little sense, including Fiona’s lack of knowledge about her own appearance. For example, she didn’t know whether her hair was curly or just wavy, but surely hair dye would have helped her see. Her facial features were a mystery, but wasn’t there some sort of heavy makeup that would have allowed her to see herself, at least for a minute or two? (Supposedly, when her skin absorbs something, it becomes transparent as well.)
One character’s transformation (or should I say redemption?) came completely out of nowhere and made very little sense. Surprising your readers is good, but things need to click together in retrospect. Making a random thing happen with absolutely no foreshadowing isn’t the same as tricking your readers into thinking one thing when you’ve been leaving clues about something else throughout the novel. The ending was awfully abrupt and entirely unbelievable. If there was a sequel planned, I’d understand, but Transparent seems to be a standalone and for a standalone, a rushed, implausible ending simply didn’t work.
Nevertheless, Transparent is enjoyable and fairly original. I recommend it for a slow, lazy day when you want to be entertained and not much else.