Fade to Black (Flinn)

Book Reviews
Flinn, a former attorney, is also interested in point of view—or rather the challenges presented when multiple points of view collide. In this tautly constructed novel, an HIV-positive high school student sees his life 'fading to black.' Then an unknown assailant attacks him in his car, and he suddenly finds himself sifting shades of gray. As the victim, the suspect and the lone witness take turns with the narrative, 'truth' and 'guilt' grow increasingly elusive.
Elizabeth Ward - Washinton Post

Flinn, author of Breathing Underwater (2001) and Nothing to Lose (2004), takes aim at bullying once again. [Characters] alternate telling their stories and sharing their secrets.... Teens will enjoy ferreting out the reality from the conflicting narratives and arguing about the sensitive issues raised along the way.

The facts are clear: Alex Crusan, an HIV-positive Cuban-American high school student who recently moved to small-town Pinedale, FL, was attacked in his car by someone with a baseball bat. He is now in the hospital with multiple injuries. Daria Bicknell, a special education (Down syndrome) student, was a witness to the attack. But who was the assailant? Daria thinks it was fellow student Clinton Cole. Clinton was seen in the area that morning, and he's been vocal about his feelings about someone who might spread "the black plague": his little sister and Alex's are best friends, and Clinton wants Alex out of their lives. We get the story in alternating chapters from the three teenagers' points of view. Alex tells of his struggle to deal with his HIV-positive status and to cope with his overprotective mother, and his fear of having no future. He forms a friendship with a candy striper at the hospital, and gradually decides to come clean about how he contracted HIV—it was from a brief relationship with a college girl, and not from a transfusion, as his family had told everyone. In blank verse, Daria tells about what she saw, and how it gets her much-desired attention from the other girls. And Clinton tells about his anger and what he really did: he is guilty, but not of this crime. In the end, telling the truth is difficult but liberating for all three young people. Flinn, a former attorney and author of the notable YA novels Breathing Underwater, Nothing to Lose, and Breaking Point, tells a convincing and wrenching tale of teens dealing with thorny issues. The three viewpoints effectively help the reader consider the plights and concerns of each character. A worthy and thought-provoking novel, with an eye-catching cover. Ages 12 to 18.
Paula Rohrlick - KLIATT

(Grade 8 & Up) Alex Crusan, an HIV-positive, Hispanic teen, is brutalized by an attacker wearing a high school letter jacket, and all fingers point to Clinton Cole, the narrow-minded jock/jerk known for making Alex and his family's lives miserable since they arrived in the rural, north Florida town. Daria Bickell, a special-ed student with Down syndrome, is the only witness to the crime. Right from the outset, it seems as though Flinn has tried to pack too much into this unsteady novel. Through alternating first-person narratives, the three main characters grapple with physical disability, racism, bullying, homophobia, and AIDS anxiety. The after-school-special approach to the issues and the inclusion of several mid-90s cultural references make Fade to Black read as though it were written a decade ago. Not to say fans won't pick up this acclaimed author's latest mystery, but literary merit is sacrificed when edgy tension takes a backseat to preachy sentimentality. —Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
School Library Journal

Before 17-year-old Alex transfers to a small Florida high school, its administrators announce at an assembly that he's HIV-positive. Alex persuades his protective parents not to sue for this illegal action even though it leads to harassment, particularly from a fellow student named Clinton. When Alex is attacked in his car one morning, Clinton is the obvious suspect. Alex, Clinton and Daria, a student with Down Syndrome who sees Clinton near the scene of the crime, each narrate chapters describing the aftermath when Alex is hospitalized, Clinton is shunned by classmates and Daria vacillates in her testimony. Alex, who knows Clinton isn't guilty, struggles with his inclination to let his harasser take the blame, while Clinton starts looking beyond his self-absorbed, difficult life to feel some sympathy for Alex. Only near the end does the reader learn how Alex contracted the virus, a story that, perhaps inevitably, reads like a warning. Flinn draws perceptive pictures of family relationships and of the emotions of a teenager scared about his future but determined to make the most of the present in this readable exploration of ethical issues.
Kirkus Reviews

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