Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

TransparentTitle: Transparent

Author: Natalie Whipple

Genre: YA contemporary, sci-fi, coming-of-age,

Publication Date: May 21, 2013

Source: Publisher-provided ARC via Edelweiss

Summary: 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.

☆: 2/5 stars – It’s a fast read, but the science is too ridiculous for the average suspension of disbelief and Fiona is a terrible character.

I’m not into The Godfather and Mafia stories in general, but the X-men? Yes please! Transparent has been pitched as a mix of the two and once you start reading, you can see both elements in it clearly. Too bad The Godfather is much more intimidating and the science behind the X-men is more easily swallowed than anything you’ll find in this novel.

Transparent is a fast read good for when you need to be occupied, like during a long flight or a boring road trip (the latter being for those lucky people who can read in moving vehicles without getting carsick). Sitting down and devouring it all in one afternoon if one has the free time is an easy feat and if you’re the kind of reader that turns your brain off completely as you read, you’ll do just fine with this. Anyone who starts to examine the science of the novel is going to start running into problems.

Characters in books don’t need to be likable for me to understand them. After all, I’m a huge Courtney Summers fan and her characters are never likable. If a character is likable, well-constructed, or both, I can happily get invested in them and their story. When they are unlikable and badly drawn like Fiona is, that’s where the problem begins. Fiona’s invisibility, her fear of going back to her father (which we are told instead of shown, sadly), and how awfully she treats her mother are her only real identifiable traits, rendering her as flat as the rest of the cast, including her love interest.

Speaking of that last trait, she treats her mother like dirt when she should appreciate what she has done for her. Her mother has simultaneously escaped an unhealthy relationship, put her life on the line, and kept Fiona from becoming a killer, but all Fiona ever does is throw vitriol at her. The situation between Fiona’s parents can be compared to both an abusive relationship and drug addiction, making Fiona’s actions even more reprehensible. This might be forgivable if Fiona were a decently drawn character, but she isn’t.

She’s also terrible at hiding. Multiple people figure out very quickly that she’s on the run and she is also enrolled in school under her real name. Lesson one of going into hiding when the Mafia is after you: change your name. She has a lot more problems than that when it comes to keeping her secret and staying hidden, but the list is so exhausting that it’s better left alone.

Much of the novel’s science is simply told instead of shown or dumped onto us. This is the most explanation we get about where everyone’s superpowers came from: back during the Cold War, people popped antiradiation pills like candy and about five years later, the babies these people had were born with superpowers like flying, scent imitation, telekinesis, charm, and smelling like Port-o-Potties when someone scares you. All that takes up about a page or two early in the novel and you’re flying on your own from there.

Swallowing the mysterious-X-gene explanation of X-men is much easier than swallowing any of what’s in the previous paragraph even with my healthy suspension of disbelief. Even if I did accept that psuedoscience, none of it explains how someone’s ability to see emotions allows a person to see anyone who is invisible. I’ve tried to think about it a million ways and none of it explains how they can her so clearly that they know her hair and eye color when no one else does. That would have been the straw to break my back.

My verdict is that Transparent is a book to pass on, but if you’re still interested in it and feel certain it will be better for you than it was for me–or even if you want to dissect the science of the novel, seeing as there’s a lot there to critically examine if you’re a science whiz–go for it. Just be warned that this book is good science the way 4 x cake donut = roflcopter is good math: hilarious but wrong.


One thought on “Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

  1. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 46 | birth of a new witch.

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