My Catchphrases

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Review: Fade to Black by Alex Flinn

Title: Fade to Black
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 23 Jun 2006

Source: Own/Bought

Synopsis: From GoodReads
Three perspectives -- one truth
The victim: After his windshield was shattered with a baseball bat, HIV-positive Alex Crusan ducked under the steering wheel. But he knows what he saw. Now he must decide what he wants to tell.
The witness: Daria Bickell never lies. So if she told the police she saw Clinton Cole do it, she must have. But did she really?
The suspect: Clinton was seen in the vicinity of the crime that morning. And sure, he has problems with Alex. But he'd never do something like this. Would he?

The book starts with a police report giving an instant and visually dramatic summary of events surrounding the main thread of the plot.

Written in first person narrative from alternating perspectives of the 3 central characters; Alex, the victim - Daria, the witness and Clinton, the accused. Daria's perspective is written in verse, distinctively separating her narrative voice from those of the male protagonists. Although at first sight they appear to be completely different it soon becomes apparent that they are all outsiders in one way or another.

The whole question of nature versus nurture is woven throughout the plot, taking into consideration economic and social backgrounds, parents attitudes reflected in those of their children. Racism/bullying/intolerance are shown as learned behaviour and I do agree with this to a certain extent; hopefully there are also outside positive influences to be able to balance the negativity. Showing how easily ignorance leads to intolerance in turn leading to violence, etc.

Loads of information about HIV/AIDS is woven into the story adding realism and great insight. I did find that the emotion was sometimes a little over dramatic, exaggerating the negative aspects of HIV developing into AIDS. Great medical advances have enabled those with HIV to lead relatively 'normal' lives. The way in which the disease is contracted and how it affects people's judgement of that person was brilliantly woven into the plot, reinforced by the way in which Alex was pitied but not befriended.

Both the male protagonists experience a tough journey of self-discovery via the plot, enabling them to understand themselves and each other better. I did find Alex slightly confrontational expressed by him deliberately wearing an AIDS charity t-shirt for his 'chat' with Clinton. The way in which they clashed reinforced this journey of self-discovery. Making both of them imagine what it would be like to be the other person. Alex is able to see that Clinton although ignorant to the real facts of the disease, cares for his family and in his own way is just trying to protect them. The effect it has on the whole family, both Alex's and Clinton's is thoroughly expressed within the narrative. While Clinton actually tries to imagine being in Alex's place, in essence being a biological time-bomb, a constant death sentence hanging over you. Adding impact to Alex's wish to be seen as a person and not just a disease. I could completely relate to that; don't we all want to be seen as the person we are not just someones wife/mother/daughter/sister; every person has their own merits yet are tied to the view people have of the people we are related to.

The way in which 'gay/fag' is used in teenage terminology for anything different/disgusting shows how inane the expression has become. Sometimes with its double meaning it can be taken as more negative than actually intended, although I will say that I still do not like it used for just that reason.

The most forceful point for me about this book is just how easy it is to think that it cant happen to you. Surely if it can happen then it could just as likely happen to you as the next person even if you are not in one of the 'high risk' categories. To think differently is just naive and stupid. The saying 'there but for the grace of God go I' kept popping into my head especially as I had a full blood transfusion when I had my youngest.

A compassionate and relatable account of how HIV/AIDS affects society as a whole, not something to be hidden under the carpet or ignored.  Alex Flinn's writing style helps make tough subject matter accessible to young adults and she should be commended for it.


  1. What an interesting sounding book that sounds like it covers some really important themes. Thanks for the great review :)

  2. I also read a review of this at Portrait of A Woman this week, and I think it sounds really good. I kind of like the sound of Alex being a little confrontational rather than accepting the other character's prejudice passively. Thanks for an interesting review!

  3. This sounds like such an interesting read. It's not something I would have ordinarily picked up, but I found your review so insightful and thought-provoking that I'm going to have to go and see if this book is available at our library. Great review Em. It's great to see that there are books that tackles topics like HIV/Aids.

  4. Great review Emma, I picked up 3 different books for HIV / AIDS week but there are lots more I'd like to read inlcuding this one. Perhaps I'll be a bit more organised for next year and review more books then :o)


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