Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: May 21st 2013 by HarperTeen
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.
Natalie Whipple’s YA debut novel is quite a strong one. I enjoyed it. It certainly presents an interesting new premise. Before I started the novel, I thought the invisibility thing was something she could turn on and off so I was a happily surprised when I realized that Fiona McClean is invisible all the time. Even to herself. This may have been the first time I have encountered an invisible protagonist.
The set up is intriguing: a mob boss’s daughter in a world where “special skills” are common, running so her father cannot exploit her invisibility and use her in his war with the other mob bosses. A mother who is addicted to her father who is really satan’s spawn. Nothing soft about this man. More on this later. She finds herself in a new town, meeting new friends and two brothers. I have a soft spot for books that take time to build relationships between family members. I also like it when the romance is not the cheap kind (the insta-love, I mean) and is accorded attention and given time. Cohere. However, I have some complaints about that so more on that later.
I thought that removing the body from the girl would perhaps give us a chance to see a narrative without discussion of beauty and physicality. However, if anything, this magnified the issue and Whipple does Fiona’s desire to see herself very well. I felt her yearning to see what colour her hair is and what her eyes look like – things we take for granted but are actually impossible for her. The pacing is fast and the writing is smooth. There are no awkward transitions and I like the flow of the narrative from one scene to another.
The climax, however, could have done with more work though I appreciate that for once, there was no grand forgiveness scene; sometimes parents suck and it’s totally okay to tell them that they do and no child has to forgive a parent when the parents actions are beyond atrocious and YA novels should probably stop perpetuating that ideal of parents as flawed but ultimately redeemable. Yes, I have an issue with that but we’ll discuss it some other day.
So this book, you guys, it was fun. Entertaining. There were two things I had issues with though:
- I thought the girl friend and her family were too welcoming and friendly. There needed to be more in the way of their motives. Some explanation. I believe in goodness, I truly do, but that kind of goodness is suspicious. Everyone’s looking out for number one. Maybe I’m just cynical?
- This is a spoiler so avert your eyes.
I wondered how Whipple would address Fiona’s invisibility where the romance was concerned. I thought it was amazing that the dude, even though he couldn’t see her, had fallen for her and it made me feel all kinds of tingles realizing that. However, in the end we find out that he had been able to see her all along. That was his skill and it was disappointing. It was even more concerning however when Fiona mentions that having him see her made her feel complete, as in, his recognition of her physical person made her feel complete. I would have liked to see Fiona come to that realization, that state of feeling, without a man helping her. Her reaching the point where she was self-actualized, assertive and confident of her own existence would have had more impact had she found the feelings through her own actions. It would have been more satisfying to see her get there on her own. As it is, all this is doing, albeit unintentionally, is reaffirming patriarchy. And yes, I went there.
Do I recommend this book to you? Yes, I do. While it has some troubling aspects, at the heart of it, it is entertaining, fun and dude, it would make such an awesome movie but the movie would probably make the protagonist visible and that would ruin everything. Ah well. I liked the book! I hope you do too.