Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: TRANSPARENT by Natalie Whipple

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.
I don't know if I've said this before, but I have a thing for invisible protagonists. I don't know why. Maybe because it's one of the rare superhuman abilities authors choose, or maybe it's just because I feel like there is more opportunity for sneakytimes with an invisible main character. I do love sneakytimes.

As the daughter of the head of a feared crime syndicate, Fiona has experienced her share of sneakytimes. In this alternate history of the world, scientists in the '50s created a pill called Radiasure to combat radiation poisoning from the inevitable nuclear fallout from the Cold War. The nuclear holocaust never occurred, but Radiasure created its own set of problems. The chemical compounds present caused mutations first in the generation directly exposed and then in their children and their children's children. Each generation became progressively more mutated or superpowered, so that while the first generation might have oddly pigmented hair, by the time Fiona's generation came to be, abilities like super-strength and flight were popping up around the nation.

Fiona's invisibility makes her the perfect tool for her Leck-like father. Daddy dearest controls the Radiasure market in the United States, which became a desired and highly illegal commodity after the mutations became more severe. Able to control any woman around him with a whiff of his intoxicating scent, Fiona's father keeps his territory under tight rein with the help of his super-powered women, including Fiona's mother, an incredibly talented telekinetic, and Fiona herself. Of course, there always has to be that one order that the faithful lackey can't follow, and when Fiona receives her, she and her mother run away to a tiny desert town.

I blame myself for not paying more attention to the synopsis. I expected a gritty and tense story about an invisible girl that focused on her Mafia-esque ties. I guess I expected more of an inner-city story, if that makes sense. It was my own fault for glossing over the part about the small town.

I had so many issues with this book. What's really bad is that they weren't major issues. With major issues, I feel like I can work myself up into a justifiable rage and bang out a sparking review. But, for me, Transparent's issues weren't major. They were just there and in such a quantity that they hindered my enjoyment of the story.

For instance, I had the hardest time connecting with any of the characters. I don't know how to explain it. It's like the psychology behind their motives were off. They didn't feel internally consistent. I wish I could give specific examples, but it's more one of those things that I can feel rather than explain. (I know, bad reviewer!) While I allowed myself to be (mostly) charmed by the characters who were supposed to charm me (like The Pack), I can't say that I felt any particular emotion when any of them were put in danger.

Even the two boys Fiona found herself interested in failed to really grab me. One was so nice as to be suspicious, so I never let myself trust him. The other one I think was going for a Mr. Darcy-type chemistry with his "misunderstood" attitude, but I just found him to be abrasive and jerky. Look, buddy, if you think a girl has a learning disability, ask her nicely. Asking her if she was dropped on her head as an infant and then trying to excuse yourself by saying you really meant your question is not okay. NOT OKAY.

Also, I expect some quality world-building in my books, so I was sadly disappointed by Transparent. Again, it wasn't that the world-building was bad. It just... wasn't there. Outside of the bare bones structure concerning Radiasure, I had no clue what Fiona's world was like. We're kept in her tiny desert bubble. I have no idea how what the social or class structure is like, how mutant abilities have changed the day-to-day goings on of life in America or anything.

Speaking of the mutant abilities, is it too much to ask that they make sense? I mean, not scientifically. Not having a detailed description of how the mutations work didn't bother me (even though a genetic mutation that lets someone know all known languages is impossible). What bothered me is the work-arounds that weren't accounted for. Take, for instance, Fiona's dad. As far as I can tell, his powers come from his pheromone-y scent. So couldn't you just plug your nose? And what about Fiona? She makes a big deal out of how she can't run from her dad or brother, but HELLO! YOU'RE INVISIBLE, WOMAN! Their reach only stretches so far. You and your mom didn't even leave the stinkin' state. Ugh.

Do you all understand why I'm grumpy? I don't think relatable characters, a small dose of world-building, some logic, and some internal consistency would be too much to ask for. I do think other readers will like this book. It's fun in its own way, and I don't think the things that bother me will bother everyone else. However, for me, this book was fun, lightweight, and ultimately forgettable.

Points Added For: The Pack as a whole, an interesting premise, superpowers, Miles.

Points Subtracted For: Paper-thin plot, a jerk of a love interest, scant world-building, plot holes.

Good For Fans Of: Superpowers, silliness.

Notes For Parents: Language, some kissing, some nudity (but she's invisible, so...)

Note: I received a digital ARC of this title from the publisher for review.

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