Why is Robert Cormier marketed to Young Adult audiences? His books explore disturbing subjects, dark themes, and create a generally bleak tone. Thomas Hardy has nothing on Cormier for tragic conclusions. And, not withstanding the constant presence of The Chocolate War, on must-read lists for Young Adults, Fade may be Cormier’s best book.
SUMMARY: At the age of thirteen, Paul Moreaux discovers that he can turn invisible. Paul, a sensitive and thoughtful working-class boy, doesn’t even realize it when he first gets The Fade. On a dare, he spies on a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. (This is the 1930s, and anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant sentiments are running high against Paul and the other citizens of Frenchtown.) When the meeting is ambushed, a crazed Klansman discovers Paul and tries to kill him– but inexplicably, he somehow loses sight of his intended victim.
What Paul doesn’t realize is that he has inherited the ability to turn invisible. Sometimes it’s useful, as when escaping from Klansmen and bullies; more often it’s horrible, as when spying upon people who reveal secrets Paul never wanted to know. One male in his family has inherited this “gift” for several generations. Paul at least has guidance from an uncle, also a Fader.
The invisible teenaged Paul slowly discovers that his “gift” only helps him learn quickly the tragedy of human existence; he is doomed to lead a life marked by violence, madness, and despair, with relief coming only when health complications from the invisibility cause him to die, lonely and young and unmourned.
A generation later, Paul’s own nephew Ozzie has no such counseling, because Paul doesn’t know he exists; the child had been secretly given up for adoption. Unfortunately Ozzie was raised by a physically abusive father, and when Ozzie discovers his Fading powers, after years of beatings and neglect, the results are terrible, with “terrible” meaning “like Stephen King’s Carrie on prom night.”
Thoughtful, horrific and suspenseful. Highly recommended!
Companion Read: Jumper by Steven Gould. (Note: do not let the bad movie based on Jumper keep you from reading it.)