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Natalie Whipple – Transparent

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Where the super-powerful wishes she were normal.

Publisher: Hot Key Books (Bonnier Publishing)
Pages: 272
Type: Fiction
Age: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-471-40076-6
First Published: 21st May 2013
Date Reviewed: 1st December 2013
Rating: 1.5/5

Fiona is invisible. Like many people whose ancestors decided to take a drug to stop the possible affects of attacks during the Cold War, she has a super ability, only she can’t turn it off. Sick of being at the beck and call of her father, a crime lord with the ability to charm women into doing whatever he wants, she runs away with her mother and starts to create a new life. But this has happened before, and the new life followed by a return. Can she stop her mother going back to her father this time?

Transparent is an example of an interesting premise badly executed.

The biggest issue is that the book rests on Fiona’s attempt to run away from her father. The issue should be obvious whether you’ve read the book or not – a girl who is invisible should have no problems running away. She may be visible whilst wearing clothes but she’s worn nothing often enough that the reader can’t so much as consider the idea that Fiona has an objection to being naked.

Hot on the heels of this is the fact that Fiona has never seen her reflection but never talks about makeup. The character talks to her friend about dyes being absorbed into her skin after a while (the reader may wonder how this failed given that the dye presumably showed Fiona’s skin for a time) and about how water shows a brief outline. Whilst make-up wouldn’t be perfect – it wouldn’t show her eyes or hair, for example – there is no reason to presume it wouldn’t work. Women wear foundation all the time, it lasts for a while and you can always reapply it. And aside from this, has Fiona never thought to feel her face, to visualise how it must look based on how it feels?

Following this is repulsiveness. Fiona spits on her friend to show the girl how even that is invisible, and whilst Bea encourages the spitting, this doesn’t deter from the fact that it’s rather disgusting, especially given that Fiona creates a big ‘loogie’ for the spitting. (Incidentally there are a couple of words like this that are likely to require an urban dictionary search for most people.) Fiona places small items in her mouth to hide them – the USB sticks she steals, for example – and it’s difficult not to think of how many germs and bacteria she has exposed herself to, especially given that as an invisible girl no doctor would ever be able to give her an injection or operate. To round it off there is a scene in which Fiona picks up a random bottle in a park and fills it with water for later use. She admits it’s disgusting but that doesn’t really do the situation justice.

Whipple’s knowledge of Catholicism is very shaky. She makes Bea’s family fundamental Catholics and uses this as the reason Bea has four siblings – Bea says that as fundamental Catholics her parents don’t use birth control. The problem with this is that in reality the Catholic church accepts natural family planning1 and when practised correctly the method has a high success rate2. In addition to this Bea’s family’s view of the Sabbath is Jewish, not Catholic3 (Bea is not allowed to go swimming for pleasure on Sunday).

Lastly, the writing and inconsistencies. Fiona is always ‘telling’, never ‘showing’. She looks at hands she can’t see, waves at people, and says her brother enjoys watching her cry. She goes to a school in her new town without considering that as someone everyone would notice for not being able to see them, word about her location would get back to her father. The inconsistencies are numerous, the world-building practically non-existent, and the style leaves a lot to be desired in general.

Transparent has a good premise behind it, but doesn’t use it. Fiona rushes back and forth so much that it’s confusing, she expects love and attention but shows nothing of these qualities herself, she treats her weak mother poorly even though she repeats the details about her father’s charm ability, and when the very foundation of the book isn’t credible it’s hard not to wonder if your time wouldn’t be better spent with another.

1 Religion And Birth Control, Wikipedia, accessed 2nd December 2013. See also Birth Control, Concerned Catholics, 2010. Note that some Catholics believe in the idea purely as a method for spacing children, others that Natural Family Planning is a form of acceptable contraception – neither way has been accounted for in the book.
2 Fertility Awareness, Wikipedia, accessed 2nd December 2013.
3 Sabbath In Christianity, Wikipedia, accessed 2nd December 2013.

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Audra (Unabridged Chick)

December 6, 2013, 2:47 pm

Oh dear — this sounds like a hot mess. Too bad, too, because I was intrigued by the premise as well!

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