Johnny's Reviews > Fade

Fade by Robert Cormier
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's review
Apr 13, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read in April, 2012

When a book’s cover likens it to a hybrid between Catcher in the Rye and H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, it sets high expectations. In the first third of Fade, I felt like a more apt comparison would have been Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers (part of his semi-biographical Brighton Beach trilogy) or Woody Allen’s Radio Days bred with Wells’ infamous Dr. Griffin. Indeed, the Wells’ influence is undeniable. Indeed, if one leaves out the famous “meat” scene from Portnoy’s Complaint, Fade bears resemblance to that novel as well—with a French Canadian and supernatural twist, of course. The pen name of the narrator is Moreaux (perhaps, a French-Canadian variant on the scientist on Wells’ famous “island?”) and there is a certain aspect of Wells’ Griffin that escalates throughout the novel. That aspect left me feeling a little hopeless and helpless, but it fit the story and I wouldn’t get rid of it—it’s vital.

As should be obvious, Fade is a coming of age story in which one or more of the characters have the ability to “fade,” to disappear. I believe that is why the novel is listed as Young Adult (YA) fiction, but I don’t believe it is only appealing to a YA audience. Not only is the writing colorful and natural, but the events have a fascinating historical nature, as well. Imagine a Depression Era town in New England with one main factory. Imagine the conflicts between union organizers, scabs, owners and gangsters. You understand the set-up. Then, add a mysterious uncle and a beautiful aunt to the picture.

In fact, add in all the implied lust and incestuous desire from the intellectual properties to which I alluded in the first paragraph and you’ve got a good idea of some of the emotional aspects of the story. Then, add in elements of mystery (the kinds of mysteries in all families like “Why doesn’t anyone talk about Aunt So-and-So?” and “Why is Uncle So-and-So so strange?” as well as supernatural mystery beyond the ordinary such as “Can this person really do this impossible thing and why?”) and an unexpected framing device that appears in mid-novel (as opposed to the beginning and end in the full sense of “framing”). This is the potent recipe for a powerful book.

Fade simultaneously “preaches” that one can become what one wants to be but that there are significant sacrifices necessary to do so. The narrative exploits the idea that power exacts a tremendous cost with regard to emotional well-being and healthy relationships; it also suggests that power (even the power that leads to knowledge) can devastate our presuppositions. Frankly, I would highly recommend this book for young adults and wish more adults had discovered it when it was being more widely distributed.
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