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Transparent

Natalie Whipple's debut young adult novel about an invisible teen fleeing her gangster dad is buoyed by well-executed plot twists.

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Transparent,
by Natalie Whipple,
HarperCollins,
368 pp.

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In her debut novel, Transparent, Natalie Whipple presents an imaginative tale of an invisible teenager on the run from her mobster father. Though not as effortless as some other sci-fi/young adult titles, the skillful world creation and tricky final plot twists on display in this novel make it well worth reading.

Sixteen-year-old Fiona O’Connell is the most powerful secret weapon of her father’s Vegas crime syndicate. Though “gifted” people are nothing new in her world, she’s the first-ever invisible person – famous but unidentifiable, and potentially deadly.

As such, Jonas O’Connell keeps a tight leash on Fiona and her telekinetic mother, Lauren. It helps that he’s a Charmer, or someone with a pheromone mutation that makes him chemically irresistible to women. Once hooked, women obsessively seek his approval; “detoxing” requires painful withdrawal.

Since Fiona’s childhood, Jonas has trained her as an expert thief. Her resumé includes multimillion-dollar bank heists, spying, and grand theft auto. But when Jonas signs Fiona up to murder members of a rival syndicate, she and her mother flee to the fictional one-horse town of Madison, Ariz.

In Madison, we learn about past escape attempts and meet Fiona’s brothers. Her oldest brother, Graham, leads the O’Connell syndicate’s brute squad (read: not her favorite person). As a Flyer, he’s literally lifted them out of hiding before. Older brother Miles was dismissed by their dad long ago as useless – his gift is scent mimicry, which, while funny, is hardly valuable to a crime lord. Fiona and Miles are especially close, and they stay in daily contact while Miles tries to secure their freedom back home.

Fiona also attends school for the first time. “Dad never let me go to school,” she explains. “I didn’t need friends or a real education or a boyfriend. All I needed was a lockpick to open doors and a Swiss Army Knife to disable security cameras.” There she is adopted by a group of gifted students, each with their own creative superpowers and dark secrets. Voice-throwing Bea and super-strong Brady become her support system, as does cranky but perceptive math tutor Seth. Individually and collectively, her friends show her what positive, trustful relationships can do, especially when Jonas finally tracks her down.

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