Transparent - Natalie Whipple image
[b:Transparent|11973377|Transparent|Natalie Whipple||16936369] is a decent debut made up of various bits of excellent, some touches of meh and a few dashes of annoying. However, Whipple's humourous dialogue, complex set of characters and inventive imagination make her an author that I still intend to seek out in the future, despite the fact that I found this book only slightly better than okay. It is one of those books with fantastic potential that goes some way towards achieving it but is let down by a gradually-building pile of negatives.

The old goodreads description called it "X-Men meets Godfather" and this is a pretty accurate summary. [b:Transparent|11973377|Transparent|Natalie Whipple||16936369] is about mutants and mafia, specifically about how the latter exploits the former for personal profit. What I really admire about the back story is how the author ties it into real life events, I know fantasy/sci-fi shouldn't always have to be completely logical but I appreciate it and believe in it more if it makes some level of sense. This story rewrites history and creates a world where Radiasure pills were distributed during the Cold War in response to the nuclear scare, but the side effects were genetic mutations that could be anything as subtle as weird eye colours or as huge as... being completely invisible. Love it.

Fiona Mclean was born invisible, the only way she can be seen is by defining her body with clothes but she has never known what her face looks like. Being invisible also makes her the perfect criminal - and the perfect tool for her father to use. When her dad finally makes the ultimate demand from Fiona, she and her mother flee across the country to hide in a small town, but her dad isn't willing to give up so easily. On top of that, Fiona has to deal with going to school for the first time. I found it interesting how the author explored what this means for a girl who is literally invisible, high school kids can be mean anyway but it is so much easier to dehumanise someone without a face and forget that they have feelings.

I'm going to talk about the positives first (and there are plenty). Whipple creates characters with multiple sides and many faults, even Fiona is difficult to like at first but this is because she has been manipulated her whole life and she suspects everyone of trying to do the same. The growth of her character is realistic and well-paced. Bea is an hilarious character with some of the best lines in the whole book and I love the relationship dynamic between Bea, her brothers, and Seth and Brady. There is a brief touch of romance in this story but it's subtle, gradual and natural so I have no complaints about it.

My main problems, though, were some very basic flaws in the logic of the story that I just couldn't wrap my head around. I posted a status update about it too because I really don't understand why Fiona felt so afraid her dad would find her - how hard can it be for an invisible girl to hide? I know why she feared her dad, he's an abusive, misogynistic creep who has abused his wife, children and employees both mentally and physically - but, I'll say it again, she's invisible. I found it very difficult to appreciate the seriousness of her situation because of this, it took a lot of the suspense out of it for me. Secondly, it was like she was trying to be found. Aside from the fact I was already thinking that Arizona is nowhere near far enough away from Las Vegas, her mother enrolls Fiona at the local high school under her actual name and somehow we're supposed to believe that word of an invisible girl (which is an extremely rare ability) called Fiona being there didn't make it back to her dad.

Seriously, don't these people watch any movies? That's not how to disappear - you always change your name! Stupid stupid stupid. The tagline is "even an invisible girl can't hide forever", clearly not if she's stupid enough to practically wear a sign saying "Find me, I'm here!"

Also, though I said I appreciated the author's decision to make Fiona an unlikable character at times, I found it really challenging to put up with some of her behaviour towards her mother. Fiona's dad has an ability which makes women want to please him and do as he says - it's something to do with his scent - and Fiona admits near the beginning that even she isn't immune to it. Her mother is also a victim of her dad's strange ability, which is why she has always returned to him when they've tried to run in the past, she can't help herself. To me, her mother seems like a regular victim of abuse. Even though in this case its cause is supernatural, it's a similar situation and I felt really angry at Fiona for judging her mother, shouting at her every time she picked up a phone, ignoring her when she speaks (which is just bloody rude), etc. Her mother is an abuse victim who has finally got away from her abuser, only to now receive no support from her daughter. I hated Fiona for that.

In fact, I think the real tragic victim of this whole book is Fiona's mother. She's the one who's taking a risk, she's the one with something to fear because she isn't invisible. Everyone gives this poor woman a hard time for everything and Fiona reaps all the sympathy. Take this example of when Fiona is reminiscing about a shopping trip with her mother:

"Those clothes look great!" she'd say.
Not you look great. Not you look beautiful. The clothes did - I didn't look like anything. I was just the perfect mannequin.
"What about me?" I asked her once. "Don't you think I'm beautiful?"

I'm sorry, it must be difficult being invisible, but what the hell is she supposed to say to that??? If I were invisible and someone said to me "you look beautiful", I'd think they were making fun of me. If this is supposed to be an example of her mother being neglectful or not caring about her daughter, then I'm not buying into it. Another thing I couldn't believe in was the semi-twist with Graham. It was completely at odds with his previous behaviour when he tried to strangle Fiona and I didn't feel it made sense to suggest he'd always been looking out for them.

One last thing and it's a nitpicky thing. It doesn't really bother me that much but I feel like someone should suggest it to Fiona. Putting make up on. Or face paint. Or whatever. Because she wants to know what her face looks like and she's invisible... but things do stick to her like clothes, water, dust, etc. So use something to define your face! Obviously, it won't be a mirror image but it's better than nothing. I can't believe she hasn't tried that once on her life.