Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Take On Vanish by Bruce Brooks

 Standing at a meager 103 pages, Vanishing is a quick read that nonetheless paints a revealing and thought provoking portrait of one girl's protest to regain control of her life through the only means she can. By going on a hunger strike.
 Eleven year-old Alice's life has been out of her hands ever since her parents divorced1 and her alcoholic mother remarried a Southern bigot who can't stand her. Her mother doesn't get her, and her weak father doesn't have it in him to stand up to his overbearing mother to take care of her. When Alice develops a persistent cough, her cold fish of a grandmother kicks her out of her crowded home, and before she can say, "I swear I'll, like, never cough again!" she's being shipped off to Mommy Dearest's house on a red eye flight. Before she lands, however, she spikes a fever that lands her in the children's ward of a hospital with a diagnosis of severe bronchitis. It's here that she meets Rex, a completely hairless, totally frank cancer patient going through a miracle remission, and decides that she's not going home. Ever. Alice embarks on an odyssey of bed ridden weakness and trippy hallucinations and discovers that she has one power: the power to give something up. But what she doesn't appear realize is that this can't go on indefinitely. Alice feels like she could last forever without food so long as she doesn't have to go home, but while forever may be an abstract idea for her, it has a definite "deadline" for the medical community.
 The children's ward never had more than three patients at a time, and this gave Rex and Alice a lot of time to get to know each other, though Alice spent a lot of her free time tripping out on her increasingly intense hallucinations. Rex was a great character; he kept Alice's grandiose, poetic self grounded. Literally. Whenever she'd go floating off into Lala Land, he'd be the only one who could bring her back down to reality. It would have been romantic if they weren't so young.
 This book, while it is about deliberate starvation, is not about eating disorders2. It's a short but detailed look at a kids struggle to regain some control. The writing was nice and vivid, totally dated, but still really good. It was like a flashback to my childhood when everyone said "like" instead of "um." I still, like, do that, like, all the time when I, like, speak and junk3.
 I give Vanishing...
...Four Zombies.
A tasty little read with a poignant message.
Happy reading,

1  Divorce was a common theme in the '90's, no? Either the parents were divorced or the mother was dead. People used those situations like they were going out of style.
2  Thank God. I was not in the mood to watch someone starve themselves for something as trivial as a dress size.
3  Little known fact: I am fluent in Valley Girl.

1 comment:

Orchid said...

While this book sounds good I don't think I could bring myself to read about someone who is deliberately starving their self. It's just not my kind of book. :)

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