Invisible Touch — Kelly Parra

Kelly Parra’s Invisible Touch is a reflection on grief for the MTV generation.*

Kara Martinez’ lost her father in a boating accident. She also died — literally and metaphorically. When the doctors brought her back, she could see things others couldn’t. Visions of the future splayed out on people’s chests. Generally, these visions involved THEIR death, deaths she could actually prevent. At the same time, her father’s death, and her own, marked Kara’s entrance into a turbulent adulthood. At the ripe old age of sixteen, she drinks too much coffee, avoids sleeping as much as possible, and pops Advil like it’s candy, all to avoid the pain of her father’s death and the pain of her own failures. The latter is caused by the debilitating headaches that have plagued her since her father died if she’s unable to avert the tragic fate she glimpses in the signs.

Kara’s got friends and an overly attentive mother, but she can’t tell them her secrets. So, what’s a girl to do? Blog about it! Yup. Kara sets up a blog, and begins chronicling her adventures as a sign seer, clearing her cache, etc., so that her nosy mother can’t find out. However, someone DOES know, and has been leaving messages in Kara’s locker at school. Also, the signs she’s chasing now involve the boy she’s crushing on, a gun, and a dead girl. Additionally, her brother and her mom are fracturing their damaged family even further by bickering over Kara’s future.

There’s a lot of plot in this slim YA, but it doesn’t feel extraordinarily rushed. Parra’s writing is solid, and while the conceit of the blog is a little much, details like Kara’s love for taquerias and Starbucks, as well as her disdain for Mountain Dew all add a nicely layered, contemporary feel to this novel. I also appreciated that Parra’s introducing  a mixed race character who is not especially tragic. Unlike Anita Blake, Kara isn’t especially hung up on being mixed. She wants to learn Spanish and eat more Mexican food, but that has more to do with recovering pieces of her father than any existential angst. Her mother appears to be pretty classist and anti-Latino, but that’s presented as having more to do with the loss of her husband and her own upbringing than overt racism, especially since Kara’s mother is both Irish and Mexican.* I DIDN’T like that it’s other Latinos that make fun of Kara for being mixed, but DID like that they mocked Kara’s friends for being bourgeosie and class-passing.

Overall, this is a solid YA novel from a rising talent. Bonus points for a diverse cast, well-handled grief, and an interesting exploration of the psyche of a teenaged psychic.

*Seriously, it’s published by MTV. Who knew?

*I disliked this a bit, since while it’s rationalized as being an individual issue, I can’t imagine this playing out in the same way in a family where both parents would be seen as the same ethnicity. I also wasn’t sure if this was meant to be seen as a kind of colorism.


  1. Dunvi says

    “I DIDN’T like that it’s other Latinos that make fun of Kara for being mixed”

    What don’t you like about that? I don’t mean to say that I like it as in endorse it, but as a mixed race child myself, I can say for certain that there is a huge sense of “otherness” beyond the typical otherness people think of (other of the other). It sounds completely true to me.

    Although I might be misinterpreting what you’re saying anyway.

  2. Maria V. says

    Hi Dunvi —

    I’m also a mixed race person. The reason I didn’t like it is that in fiction, it’s often the “othered” heritage that gets the burden of narratively representing the “badness” of being mixed race. So it’s the black kids in fiction who make fun of the mixed race protagonist, the Latinas in this one, etc etc. I don’t especially like that trope, since it leaves out whiteness and the ways whiteness is policed. Like, what I’m saying is that I DON’T like that Parra highlights Kara being seen as not Latina enough, and leaves out the ways in which she’s also seen as not WHITE enough. Does that make sense?

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