Transparent

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Transparent Book Poster Image
Invisible girl flees mob dad in inventive fantasy thriller.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Transparent is far more entertainment than education, but many readers will empathize with Fiona's difficulties with math and her tutor Seth's efforts to help.

Positive Messages

Fiona has real friends for the first time, and it's life-changing. Amid all the fantasy, gangster, and teen-romance threads, courage, loyalty to your loved ones, and protecting your real (not crime) family are essential lessons. Also: Working together can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Her powers and family issues aside, Fiona is a normal, believably flawed teen who has to deal with extraordinary challenges. While some adult characters are determined to kill Fiona and her friends, many others show unexpected courage and resourcefulness coming to their defense.

Violence

Violence is a constant presence, though rarely graphic, as Fiona, her family, and her friends are all in danger. Fiona has fled from her father rather than be forced to kill family members of his business rivals. One of her brothers, who can fly and works for her father, likes to terrify his victims by dangling them from great heights. Other characters' superpowers have unintended but sometimes deadly consequences.

Sex

Fiona is extremely embarrassed to discover that one of her male friends can see her, and has seen her naked many times when she was invisible to everyone else. One of her friends' brothers pesters her with mildly sexual banter until his family makes him stop. Fiona's father never married any of the mothers of his children. One of the male characters with superhuman strength is afraid to get sexually involved with the girl he loves for fear of harming her.

Language

Occasional use of "s--t," "crap," "douchebag," "balls," "boobs," etc.

Consumerism

Mass-market products are part of the scenery, e.g. Fiona is very fond of Pop-Tarts; the teens have a burrito-eating contest at Taco Bell; various characters drink Coke.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Transparent is an improbable concoction of mobster tale, science-fiction superpowers, and regular teen-girl problems, from boys and cliques to wardrobe choices. Both the premise and the content may make this better for older kids: Narrator/heroine Fiona O'Connell and her mom are on the run from her crime boss father, and there are undercurrents of violence and danger. Fiona and other characters sometimes use swear words and vulgar language ("s--t," "crap," "douchebag," "balls," "boobs"). But the book promotes courage, resourcefulness, friendship, and loyalty -- as well as unexpected possibilities in a world where many people have superpowers.

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What's the story?

In a world that closely resembles ours, a scientific mishap in the '70s unleashed many genetic mutations, which today cause large numbers of people to have unusual powers, from the scary to the silly. Teenage Fiona O'Connell is TRANSPARENT, and her mob boss father has been exploiting her invisibility (and her mother's telekinetic powers) for criminal purposes since she was 5. Now she and her mother have fled the mob and her dad, who's determined to hunt her down. Meanwhile, she's also dealing with being in high school, making the first friends she's ever had, struggling with math, and falling in love.

Is it any good?

The unlikely mix of genres here may seem a bit over the top, but the imaginative premise and the author’s appealing voice deliver for those willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. Aside from a remarkable range of superpowers, the teen characters are dealing with issues that will resonate with many readers, from family dysfunction to social awkwardness to academic struggles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the idea of invisibility is so interesting. Does Fiona's description of the up- and downsides of her ability give you a different perspective from what you might have read in other books?

  • In a world where lots of people have some kind of superpower, would you choose to have one, or not? If you could choose one particular power, what would it be?

  • How are the lives of Fiona and her friends like the lives of teens you know?

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Themes & Topics

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