Children's Book Reviewsby Editor
The Internet Writing Journal
Vanishing by Bruce BrooksLaura Geringer Books, June 1999.
Hardcover, 160 pages
Reading Level: Baby-Preschool
Vanishing deals with a very serious problem that affects many teenaged girls: voluntary starvation. Alice finds herself in a situation which she feels she cannot control. She had hoped to live with her father when her parents broke up and for a while that is what happened. Then she develops bronchitis and the coughing gets on her grandmother's nerves. Her father, who lived in the grandmother's house told her that the "experiment" was just not working out. And that was that. Alice finds herself sent to live with her mother who drinks too much and a stepfather who does seem to like her -- too much. Finding herself hospitalized for her bronchitis, Alice thinks she can find a way out of her difficulty by not eating.
Rex is a young patient at the same hospital, who walks in to make Alice's acquaintance. Rex appears to not care very much about anything, and he has an iconoclastic attitude toward the hospital and staff. Rex is dying and he knows it. He does not get the encouragement that he needs from his parents, but he does appear to get some pleasure out of his visits with Alice when he shares his views on what a disappointment his world offers him. When Alice hears from her mother that Rex is no longer in remission and is in intensive care, she decides that she will get to see him no matter what. In order to prove herself healthy enough to visit Rex in intensive care, Alice begins to eat. Seeing Rex in his final hours and listening to his final advice ("dying sucks") changes Alice, and she decides to embrace living.
Bruce Brooks gets his message to the readers in a way that they can respect. Picking up on the disgust that many young teens feel with life, the author gives a strong message through his heroine. The last message that her dying friend sends her is, "Tell her that all you get by giving up stuff is the Big Nothing." Teens should enjoy the irony and dialogue, as well as the relationship that develops between the boy that doesn't want to die, but has no choice, and the girl who is literally vanishing herself through her own choices.
--Sarah Reaves White