Select one of the keywords
Fade to Black    by Alex Flinn order for
Fade to Black
by Alex Flinn
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTempest, 2005 (2005)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Alejandro (Alex) Crusan and parents move to Pinedale, Florida because of his dad's job transfer. They had no choice as continuous medical insurance coverage was a critical consideration. A new company wouldn't pay their med bills, because of the pre-existing conditions clause. Alex attends Pinedale High in his junior year. Alex is HIV-positive, doing okay, but the disease can progress at any time.

All at Pinedale know of Alex's condition, because school administrators announced it at a student assembly. In itself this was illegal, but officials got around it by informing the student body about topics like blood-handling techniques. Early Monday mornings, Alex drives to the Dunkin' Donuts shop, bringing home pastries and coffee. During one such jaunt, he spots someone carrying a baseball bat, and sporting a jacket bearing the school's insignia. The perpetrator attacks Alex's car, smashing the windshield and surrounding windows. Alex is taken to Memorial Hospital for severe cuts and bruises. Under the Florida Hate Crimes statutes, the assault becomes a criminal case.

Clinton Cole shares a few classes with Alex, occupying the desk next to him since students are seated in alphabetical order. Clint's dad is an alcoholic, who lost his job and moved away, and Clint lives with his mom. His younger sister Melody is best friends with her classmate Carolina Crusan - they often spend an overnight at each other's home. Clint is not happy about this because of the HIV factor. Clint, who grew up with his father's bias and racial prejudice, bullies Alex and leaves notes in his locker.

At Pinedale High, Clint sits in the principal's office awaiting the police. He vehemently denies the baseball assault on Alex. However, there is a witness ... Daria Bickell is a special ed (Down Syndrome) student at Pinedale. Other students avoid her, but Alex spends time talking with her. Some of Daria's thoughts are, 'Maybe I am a ghost people look through like water. Maybe I am invisible so they do not know I watch ... think words are invisible so I cannot hear retard, retard, retard.' But she knows what she saw. Daria stands on the street each Monday morning to watch as Alex drives by on his way to the donut shop. She witnessed the assault. But the police question her testimony.

As an attorney, Alex Flinn developed a strong interest in 'witness reliability and bias', prompting her to write this story. She uses narration segments (as from a stage play), back and forth between victim, perpetrator, and witness. Flinn presents readers with an important subject. However, I missed an involvement of parents, officials, and medical staff, and felt a void in the lack of any friends whatsoever for Alex before the assault and during his hospitalization. Though I believe these would have strengthened the story, I recommend Fade to Black to teens and adults for the vital social and ethical issues it addresses.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews