VANISHING by Bruce Brooks


Age Range: 11 - 15
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PLB 0-06-028237-1 Framed as it largely is in conversations between two preteen hospital patients, this cerebral meditation on death and independence reads like a converted stage play. Weeks into a hunger strike, Alice floats in a hallucinatory world, emerging occasionally for her alcoholic mother’s silent visits, for friendly exchanges with her shrink, Dr. Archibald, or to talk with Rex, a tough-minded victim of inoperable cancer. Living with a harsh stepfather—“he hates me, sets tests I can only flunk, and he makes me pay”—has left her subject to severe bouts of depression, and she has stopped eating not to end her life (she’s very clear on this), but as a radical protest. Brooks (Each a Piece, 1998, etc.) deftly fills in a complex background, peopled by adults who have failed his protagonist in various ways, and, without forcing an agenda onto events, presents Alice with reasons to take up her life again: the strongest are her stepfather’s reluctant promise to bend, and Rex’s dying observation that, “all you get by giving stuff up is The Big Nothing.” Rex and Alice speak with wise older voices, but thoughtful readers will glean that character and plot are less important here than the shimmering web of ideas, ironies, motives, and options they convey. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: June 30th, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-028236-3
Page count: 110pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999