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Book review: Debut novel 'Transparent' offers new take on superpowers

"TRANSPARENT," by Natalie Whipple, HarperTeen, $9.99, 368 pages (f) (ages 12 and up)

In Fiona McClean’s world, genetic mutations are the norm.

There isn’t any hiding from the drug Radiasure because it’s everywhere, enhancing powers and creating a hierarchy and drug lord culture of which Fiona is very aware.

While many possess the powers of telekinesis, super strength, or even the ability to reproduce smells, Fiona is the only person known to be born completely invisible. As such, Fiona is irreplaceable to her father, head of one of the largest crime organizations.

Fiona and her mother flee to a small town in Arizona in the hopes of truly escaping from her father and her oldest brother Graham. As Fiona warily settles into “normal” life, she’s faced with the realization that being invisible may mean that she’ll never be seen for who she truly is.

Natalie Whipple’s debut novel is exciting in its scope and premise. Though the plot of mutant superchildren is not new, Whipple freshens up the scene by exploring what it’s really like to feel invisible. Fiona has a constant internal struggle with her desire for someone to see her and notice who she is beyond her invisibility.

As she meets friends in her new home in Madison, Ariz., she struggles with forming meaningful relationships that build on trust. Teenage readers especially will identify with many of Fiona’s doubts and fears, and recognize that even with a superpower, learning to find your place in the world is daunting.

With the exception of one minor flaw (the fact that as the only invisible person, Fiona’s presence in a small town wouldn’t be immediately recognized and reported), Whipple’s story is airtight. There is a great balance of action, suspense, and non-angsty romance. Readers who enjoy Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” or “Heist Society” novels will find many similarities in the witty dialogue, smart characters and fast-paced plot.

“Transparent” is suitable for ages 12 and up. There are references to drug use with Radiasure, and Fiona’s father is a syndicate boss. Violence is mild with a few references to experiences in Fiona’s past. Whipple is a Utah resident and blogs about her writing and other adventures at

If you go ...

What: "Transparent" book launch and Natalie Whipple book signing

When: Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City


Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "Transparent" from The King's English

Emily Ellsworth is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room,, a blog dedicated to promoting a love of young adult fiction with book reviews, author interviews and more.