Leave a comment

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

High school is hard when you’re invisible.

Fiona McClean hates her family, has had to move to a new school and seems to be completely invisible to the boy she likes. So far so normal, right? But Fiona really is invisible. She doesn’t even know what colour her own hair is.

Born into a world where Cold War anti-radiation pills have caused genetic mutations, Fiona is forced to work for her mind-controlling mobster father as the world’s most effective thief. When her father announces she must become a murdering assassin, Fiona and her telekinetic mother make a break for freedom. Running to a small Arizonian town, Fiona finds that playing at ‘normal life’ with a mother on the edge, a brother she can’t trust, and a boy who drives her crazy is as impossible as escaping her father.

Although I was initially wary of this book, the more I read, the more the story grew on me. I think the story could have been strengthened by paying closer attention to the protagonists’ voice and by taking away some of the more cartoonish aspects of the mafia scene.

Fiona was born invisible, and her mafia-boss father has used her to steal, manipulate and spy since she was old enough. When he tries to use her as an assassin, however, Fiona’s mother decides enough is enough, and they run away. However, the mind-control powers her father employs are addictive, and Fiona and her mother have run away before, only to succumb to their craving for his approval. On tenterhooks, surrounded by strangers, and terrified that her mother will give them up at any moment, Fiona starts school and tries to live a normal life.

The tone of this book came across as too juvenile for my liking – Fiona has a weirdly light way of describing the mafia, her father and what they get up to, never seeming to really realise how dark those things are. She judges the students at her new school for not realising how good they have it, but I never saw any evidence that she herself had any idea. When the mafia do make appearances, it’s comical and over-exaggerated, and even the violence becomes weird, slapstick. I’m not convinced there was ever any gravitas to the crime scene used in the novel, even though the very idea of a teenager being used in the ways Fiona was terrifies me. The violence between Fiona and he family members felt unrealistic and gratuitous and yet strangely troubling. I almost feel like the author watched an episode too many of The Sopranos while writing this.

I liked the world that Natalie Whipple has created and the powers, big and small, that everyone possesses. There are the usual powers – flight, strength, charisma, telekinesis, mind-reading – but Whipple has also created some unique ones as well. I think my favourite power is the scent-replication that Fiona’s brother Miles posses – even though he thinks it’s useless, I think it’s really cool. Plus he can do some awesome things with it. Bea’s voice throwing is also awesome.

I found it really hard to like any of the characters in this book – they’re all under-developed and annoying (some only mildly so, but others infuriated me). Fiona, in particular, is a whiny brat who makes nonsensical decisions and likes to blame everyone but herself for her problems. She won’t cut her mother a break, even though the woman was in an abusive relationship, and she treats the students at her school with contempt and hates a girl on sight because she’s pretty. It’s ridiculous. I also couldn’t understand Graham, who claims that he cares about Fiona and her mother, and is trying to protect them, but degenerates to violence alarmingly quickly any time Fiona questions him or refuses to follow his orders. The rest of the cast is two-dimensional and stereotypical, but there are nuggets of brilliance in the relationship between Bea and her brothers, and between Fiona and Miles.

Transparent is a very quick, light read, enjoyable on some counts, but amateurish and clichéd on others. Although the book leaves a lot to be desired, there are moments in characterisation and plot that shine through.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: