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. – Goodreads
I am extremely torn on this book. Don’t get me wrong, I love and adore it and will be recommending it. However there were enough negatives that it affected my view on the novel. But we’ll get to the negatives.
This book is about Fiona, a girl who happens to be invisible. How weird is it to not know what your hair looks like? Or your eyes? The only thing Fiona, or Fi, knows is that she is 5’8’’, 140 pounds and has an amazing wardrobe.
One day her father, think head of a major crime family, decides she needs to kill a man, since she fears her father and doesn’t want to disappoint him she agrees. Let me repeat that: because she fears her father she agrees to kill a man. She at one point states “The Worst Part? I miss him. I hate him and miss him at the same time.” Yeah, see why I had a problem with this book?
I don’t know why I keep coming back to the father situation besides the fact that it bothered me from the very beginning of the novel. I love father/daughter relationships, probably because my father and I have a really good (mocking) relationship. But the father/daughter relationship in Transparent is weird. From the very beginning it’s weird. I understand she, understandably, fears her father, however, her need to please him while fearing him is worrisome to me. Maybe because I found it hard to relate and connect to the situation. Just when you think you can’t hate her father anymore, oh you do.
HERE BE SPOILERS
Her mother though decides enough is enough and in the middle of the night takes her away. After about a month of hiding her, Fiona’s mother decides, you know what, you actually need to go to school in the real world. I know, crazy thoughts, but Fiona’s world is nothing but normal. It is important to point out that both of her parents are mutants, too. Her father is a drug. He’s a drug in the sense that if you’re near him too long he becomes irresistible to women and they will do anything to make him happy. Women have to detox off of him. The only reason Fiona doesn’t is because she has his blood running through her.
Fiona also has two brothers, Graham, a flyer, who she loathes because she considers him her fathers lapdog (her words, not mine.) And Miles, who happens to be her best friend, and one her father has deemed worthless (again, her words, not mine.) Whenever Fiona and her mother disappear her brother Graham is the one who scoops them up and forces them to return, hence a giant part of her hate of him. Fiona of course has issues with her mother, many issues, on top of the typical she’s a teenager and hates her mother issues. Fiona and her mother never really talk and because of that there is a lot of hostility and resentment from Fi. However Fiona and her mother, closer to the end of the story, finally talk and you understand more about where her mother is coming from. Because Fiona is the narrator of Transparent, it is often a skewed view on her mother. When the two finally have a chance to talk, Fiona’s own view on her mother changes and because of that so does the readers.
Whipple’s use of history throughout the novel was fascinating. She discusses how Radiasure, a popular drug, was once an anti radiation pill during the Cold War in hopes of surviving the nuclear holocaust. Of course said holocaust never came but the mutations did. Simple things: a man with a woman’s voice, a green person, but everyone was okay with this because still, they would survive. It then was found out that even after people stopped taking the drug their children would still be affected. This of course caused people to abuse said drug. It became an illegal drug and was forcing people to be like super heroes/villains in the movies. Would that make you want to take it?
We already know by normal, present day, standards of America that as soon as something becomes illegal it becomes a must have item. Government tries to regulate it and it all goes to hell in a handbasket (of course it does.) Most are good at hiding their powers, don’t abuse it, and aren’t as noticeable as Fiona, who is invisible or transparent.People hate her and think her evil crime boss father brought her to this small town to hide her from a rival crime lord. Madison, Arizona. I will give it to Whipple, she explains the town so well I was convinced it was a real town in Arizona. I felt everything down to the sweat Fiona felt walking home from school. I have spent the last 12 years of my life in Arizona and there are certain things you don’t do during a period of time in Arizona and that is walk. It is so hot and dusty that it takes your breath away, and not in a good way.
Fiona is lucky and does find a close knit group of friends in Bea and Brady and what is known as The Pack. Of course it takes Fiona a bit to open up to them. Her father spent most of her life telling her that nice people are her worst enemies. So when Bea and Brady are nice to her, she assumes they are frauds and they want something from her, even though they don’t. Which causes this whole blow up because Bea had enough of it. Which is awesome to see because girls in YA novels usually don’t have those moments. They are instead all about the cat fights, this novel is different. The two meet back up and everything is cool. Bea and her are fine and Bea is back to defending her right away because people are assholes.
One of the most important lines, to me, happened on page 43 of the ARC when Fiona said to her math tutor, Seth “It doesn’t’ matter what you intended, only how it’s interpreted.” That line stayed with me probably longer than Whipple intended it to. Seth quickly becomes one of the few people who are open and honest with Fiona, even when she doesn’t want to hear it (which of course is often.) Without even knowing the whole situation he brought to light what a horrible person her father is how he hindered her from having an education because she wasn’t important to him as a daughter, only as an invisible henchmen. There is also that tension with Seth right away because Seth reminds Fiona of her brother Graham and she almost loathes him because of that fact.
As Fiona is bonding with her new BFFs, it ends up Graham has come into town and she ends up running away, because lets be real here, who wants to go back to the evil crime lord that is your father? I know I wouldn’t. While hiding from her brother, two of her new friends have formed a search party to come find her. Something that Fiona isn’t quite sure what to do with. Mostly because she has never had friends. And that is an important part to this story, is even though she is invisible, Fiona is still a teenage girl who wants to be liked, and even loved. Really, truly loved, not just used.
Then Graham comes to town. He claims that they are friends and he’s on their side. He’s been on their side all along! But still, as a reader from Fiona’s point of view, you don’t trust him. Miles, is the exact opposite of Graham, you can’t help but trust him. Graham doesn’t lie though, he does, in his own way try to help them. And while he’s helping them, Miles and Fi are becoming part of the group who has their own secrets. There are so many important things weaved into this story it is a testament to Whipple’s writing.
Although invisible, Fi is still a teenage girl. She gets giddy when she gets asked out, she takes cheap shots and then immediately regrets them. She has a love/hate relationship with Seth in the character. I related a lot to her relationship with Seth. They both have stressful shit going on in their lives and they take it out on each other. Tina is currently planning a wedding and I’m trying to figure out grad school. Our daily emails to each other are snarkier and shorter than usual. Not because we hate each other but because we love each other so much we know we can be assholes to each other and still love each other at the end of the day. (Hi Tina! Thanks for calling me out on my shit..daily.) Which of course plays into the love triangle in the book. (Not in real life. Tina and I are just BFFs. Her boyfriend is a lovely man.) Fi likes Brady, but starts to have feelings for Seth. She is actually unaware of her feelings for Seth, although the reader has many hints throughout. There is a pivotal moment on page 156 of the ARC where a big blow up happens involving Seth’s skill in the book and Seth ends up saying “Whether you knew it or not, you’ve been fixing me” the amount of feels that it gave me I am unable to put into words. Particularly because I enjoy people believing I have a cold bitter black heart.
What holds this story together is Whipple’s writing and world building. To be honest it is what is making me give it a higher rating than I originally thought I would. I hovered between 3-4 stars for quite some time. Because while I enjoyed the stories I did have issues with it. Fiona comes from a famous family, is invisible, joins a new town and her father never found out? The twist involving her brother? BUT Whipple is a good strong writer who explains things that one doesn’t think about when invisible. For example, what it’s like going to a pool. Or being covered in water/a pool. The process of applying suntan lotion or getting out of a pool and how it makes you seen.Or playing a game of sardines (form of hide and seek) in which she takes off half of her clothes and everyone freaks out because although she is invisible they see picture what she looks like. Whipple’s writing, to me, made up for the issues I had which changed this from a 3.5/3 to a 4/3.5 star rating.