Vanishing

Bruce Brooks, Author
Bruce Brooks, Author HarperCollins $14.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-06-028236-3
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Library Binding - 160 pages - 978-0-06-028237-0
Paperback - 103 pages - 978-0-06-447234-0
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-19269-9
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-30174-9
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Beginning with an out-of-body experience for the protagonist, the frequently dreamlike atmosphere of this novel distances the audience from the weighty events occurring here. Alice is an 11-year-old girl whose hunger strike takes her precariously towards death. Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn that Alice is hospitalized for bronchitis because of her father's and grandmother's neglect, and she intentionally stops eating in order to avoid being released to her alcoholic mother and her hateful stepfather. Alice enjoys the heady sensation of defying gravity with her lightness (""She felt herself going a little higher, feeling a little lighter, a little more joyous""). Meanwhile, her roommate, Rex, a cancer patient, concentrates his energies on remaining earthbound. Brooks (What Hearts) draws a compelling parallel between the two children as they struggle to control their fates. Yet Alice and Rex speak to each other in clinical, self-consciously pedantic terms (""You're the legendary Prince of Remission... Whereas I am merely a girl on a hunger strike... still subject to trifling fears at the idea of disappearing into a total lack of consciousness for an indefinite period, possibly forever,"" says Alice). These exchanges belie the affection Alice must harbor for Rex in order to justify her actions in the closing chapters. The sense of detachment Alice feels during her ""lightness"" episodes pervades the novel and even extends to her relationship with Rex. At the penultimate moment, when Alice finally ""comes down"" to be at Rex's side at the critical juncture in his illness, readers will likely wonder why. Ages 10-up. (June)
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