Monday, March 24, 2008

Fade to Black

I have to admit this was not my favorite book of the year. I chose this title to read for two reasons- first because we were looking for books that might appeal to boys and second because I loved Flinn's book Breathing Underwater. This book, however, didn't deliver the punch I thought it would, given the topic. The character didn't develop as I thought they would...they just fell flat. I did think the different narratives were an affective way to tell the story and could see where this book might appeal to reluctant readers.

I am anxious to hear what you all thought. Am I the only who was disappointed?


Amanda said...

This book definitely doesn't go into too much depth, but I think it would serve as a good conversation starter. It pointed out irrational fears and stereotypes of people infected with HIV. I thought it was interesting that the parents insisted on telling everyone Alex got HIV from a transfusion, that way people would think he's an "innocent" victim. I think this moral controversy is interesting and can be related to the recent development of the HPV vaccine that some groups are against because they think by getting this vaccine, girls will be encouraged to become irresponsibly sexually active because they won't have to worry about contracting this virus. I imagine the same controversy surrounds the possibility of a vaccine for HIV.
I didn't really like how the author put Daria's character into the storyline. I thought it was a bit much and perhaps more attention and detail should have been put on the main conflict, however, I can see that Flinn was just trying to relate how cruel people can be to anyone who is different; even Clinton could relate more to this as the story progressed as he remembered what it was like being left out because of his weight.
I thought this was a quick read and though it was rushed, it might be a good choice for our more reluctant readers to get into deeper topics.

Dawn said...

I really liked the book Fade to Black. I did think the reading level was a little low for high school students, but I liked the set up of the book. I agree that the characters were not developed enough. I would have liked to feel more connected to them and the opportunity wasn’t there to do that. I liked the “twist” of the characters talking about two different events, Alex attacked and Clinton breaking the window with a rock. I have to admit at one point in the book I thought Daria was the person that attacked Alex. I was glad that she didn’t end up being the attacker.
I was partially disappointed when Alex’s story about how he got HIV was put out there. My reason for this is because it shouldn’t matter. On the flip side, every time they stated something about how he got HIV, I wanted to know the actual way he contracted the disease.
Overall I think the book has a good message to send to students. It seemed to be all about identity and fitting in, which is an area that many teens struggle.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I found this book to be a quick read that definitely lacked depth. I think that the author could have done much more with the characters and storyline than he did. I found parts of the book to be almost annoying to read in that they didn’t add much to the story at all. (For example some parts about Clinton and Alex’s little sisters.)

In particular I found the role of Daria to irritate me as the book continued on. I do not feel like her chapters added anything to the story and were for the most part unnecessary. I can understand that the author was trying to make a point about how people treat others who are different from them but, if it needed to be included, I feel it could have been done much better. I was also irritated by how many times the cause of Alex's HIV was brought up but, never discussed in depth until the end. I felt almost like it was being dragged out. It shouldn't matter how he contracted the disease, but the fact that it kept coming up throughout much of the book but with no real conclusion was an annoyance to me.

I do think that this book had a good message, but overall I think it could have been one much better. I also found the ending of the book to be unrealistic. Everything was tied up too neatly for my tastes. I do, however, think that the topic of HIV and other stereotypes is an important for students to read about and I do think that this book would appeal to some readers.

Cathy said...

I was a little nervous about reading this book after reading Kathy's blog but I found it enjoyable. There were several themes in the book.To me the most important was that one bad decision can ruin not only your life but of those around you too. Alex's decision to go to a frat party and the aftermath not only effected his life but he found that his decision impacted his family beyond his illness. His father could not change jobs because they needed the health insurane. His sister had trouble having friends because people were scared of his disease. His mother made the family almost reclusive. Clinton had a similar experience. His trhowing the stone at Alex's house made Daria identify him as the baseball swinging person. This effected his family also. Obviously there was the teen theme of fitting in and not.
I did have a problem with the time period. In the 80's I could see the school having the assembly. Something similar happened at a school I was at but now I can't see that happening. This was not the best book of the series but I liked it better than Waiting for Alaska.

cvanslyk said...

I don't really think that I like Alex Flinn very much. Her comment about Mother Teresa on page 91 was very offensive. It certainly made Clinton look like a not very nice person. But also Flinn went way too far. Clinton was not likeable. He said and did things that were mean and totally stupid. I never did understand why he threw the rock through the little girl's window. This book has some merits but not enough to offset the unkind comments that Clinton makes.I will not use this book in class. However, it is easy to read and fast moving. It emphasizes facts that we probably cannot assume that kids are aware of. For example, Alex thought he was safe with the college student because she was on birth control pills. It was very sad that nobody would get near Alex. These kids really lacked knowledge of the way HIV is transmitted. I really thought that our society was beyond this misinformation. Especially by 2005 which was the copyright date of this book. The total lack of confidentiality was not realistic. One of my very best friends died at a young age from AIDS. This was quite a few years ago and the family was very secretive at that point. By the end of the book, I lost my sympathy for Alex. The mothers blindly stood behind their sons and daughter but their characters were very underdeveloped. Daria was often described in a very disrespectful manner. This book sets a very poor example for young adults.

Rascalii said...


Rascalii said...

It was interesting that this book was written by a lawyer. I was, however, hoping that there would be more informaiton on legal issues. The idea of the assault being a hate crime was brought up a couple of times, but not much detail was given on legalities. I think that it would have been good for a young adult population to know how severe some crimes could be if they were hate-related. Students don't think too much of the consequences and this would have been an excellent opportunity to get that point across. I agree that the characters are very superficial. I wanted to feel more for them, but somehow I couldn't believe that they were realistic enough to warrant empathy. I, too, felt teased by the cause of Alex's HIV. I was beginning to think that there was another method unbeknownst to me or perhaps Alex was really gay.
But as you say, it really didn't matter how he contracted the disease. It was interesting how
Alex's lies or deception about his age got him into a dilemma and that later he felt the need to tell the truth about matters. It is sad to see that most people today do not think that lying is a problem. In fact, I get the impression that most people feel that if you lie and get away with it, you are very clever and the person being duped is not. I am sorry to hear about your friend, Charlene. We have made strides in this area and this book does bring about more awareness. Hopefully the young people will be better educated by it.

Pam L said...


Pam L said...

I enjoyed this book as an easy read but wanted a lot more details throughout the book. I do think our junior 15:1 kids would have a lot to discuss after reading this and I can think of some of our freshmen CT students who might be able to get through this on their own in a lit circle. Finding out what really happened would make them keep reading.

I did not like Clinton at all and I guess that was the point--he's one of those very unlikeable characters yet he's actually innocent. This could start a good discussion about rumors, gossip, how gullible we can be, etc.

The character of Alex, in the beginning, seemed to be developing well, but by the end I wasn't so sure. I don't think the author did well jumping in and out of each character's head. I liked the format but didn't feel that the character's were authentic. I felt that Alex was just what you'd expect from a kid with HIV, and Clinton was just what you'd expect from a punk who didn't understand HIV, etc. There were no surprises so I'm not sure I really discovered anything. EXCEPT--when Alex and Clinton had their big pow-wow in the hospital, Clinton's comment, "...once you look someone in the eye like that--I mean, really look at them--it's like you can't NOT look at them again. You can't not see them" was profound. I can see using that as an essay prompt--maybe even for a task IV on the ELA Regents. I think the author was looking for a way to show a change in the characters and, for Clinton, he nailed it with that comment.

Lisa said...


Lisa said...

This was definitely a quick read!! I thought it touched on many important topics in today's society: HIV, not being accepted, cliques and bullying. I think this would be a book that many of our 15:1 students would be interested in due to it's contents and the fact that it's an easy read. I too, like most of you, was disappointed that the characters and story were not developed more. I did like how Alex was uncomfortable about not being honest with the way he "aquired" HIV. I think some students might be able to relate to Alex, because they all have the attitude that "it" would never happen to me. Not just with HIV, but with everything. I didn't like the way Daria was portrayed either. I will admit that Clinton did get under my skin. However, there are kids like that in the real world. Things just ended too abruptly and neatly at the end.

Kim Seeley said...

I LOVED this book! I was skeptical because Kathy said she didn't care for it, but it was one of my favorites. I thought the characters were very well developed and I loved how they added Daria thoughts the way that Flinn did. This book would be the perfect reading level for my 15:1 students or even CT freshman. I could see a ton of great discussions and essays as a result of this book. Outside of Runner, this was my second favorite so far!

Jen said...

I liked the book but not necessarily for English teacher reasons. Many of you have said that the character's are not developed that well. I actually think the characterization portion of the novel is fairly well done. I like how the disabled girl's part demonstrates how limited she is with language. I think something could be done with that section to show kids what we mean when we talk about development. The literary merit of the piece is not worthy of my praise. HOWEVER, as I was reading it made me realize how well this book could be connected to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (in themes). So, for that reason, I really enjoyed it. I could immediately see connections I could make between this contemporary piece and that classic novel.
You know, maybe I should think more about this statement, but as I stand right now, I don't know how much I care about the reading level. I care about interest level at this point. So many kids are not reading.... I think I could "sell" this and make some great connections. Lisa and Pam, if you consider trying to get it, I would be on board with you. I think I would use it as a lit. circle book.

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rebeccakryger said...

I didn't love this book, though I think a middle schooler or ninth grader might like it. The biggest problem I had was that I didn't believe Clinton's character. Something about how he talked about Alex didn't feel right to me. I did like that Alex found a way to connect to the other students by the end of the novel. I also liked the fact that there was a "truth" behind how he contracted HIV because when we are told it is because of a transfusion, I did not buy it. I think it was a bit strange that the author would choose to even make up the transfusion story because it is viturally impossible today. Perhaps if the novel had been written from third person point of view instead of hearing the characters inner thoughts throughout would have made it easier for me to buy into.