Fade to Black

( 24 )


Three perspectives — one truth

The victim: After his windshield was shattered with a baseball bat, HIV-positive Alex Crusan ducked under the steering wheel. But he knows what he saw. Now he must decide what he wants to tell.

The witness: Daria Bickell never lies. So if she told the police she saw Clinton Cole do it, she must have. But did she really?

The suspect: Clinton ...

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Three perspectives — one truth

The victim: After his windshield was shattered with a baseball bat, HIV-positive Alex Crusan ducked under the steering wheel. But he knows what he saw. Now he must decide what he wants to tell.

The witness: Daria Bickell never lies. So if she told the police she saw Clinton Cole do it, she must have. But did she really?

The suspect: Clinton was seen in the vicinity of the crime that morning. And sure, he has problems with Alex. But he'd never do something like this. Would he?

An HIV-positive high school student hospitalized after being attacked, the bigot accused of the crime, and the only witness, a classmate with Down Syndrome, reveal how the assult has changed their lives as they tell of its aftermath.

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Editorial Reviews

Flinn, author of Breathing Underwater (2001) and Nothing to Lose (2004), takes aim at bullying once again. This time HIV-positive Alejandro Crusan, a Florida high-school junior, is the target. After being attacked in his car by a baseball bat-wielding teenager, Alex is hospitalized while recovering from his injuries. Clinton Cole, prejudiced and afraid of catching AIDS, hates Alex and is responsible for tormenting him on several previous occasions. This time he claims he’s innocent. However, Daria, a teen with Down syndrome, saw Clinton at the scene of the attack; she also witnessed one of the earlier assaults. The teens alternate telling their stories and sharing their secrets, as Alex struggles with the truth about the attack and about the origin of his HIV-positive status. Daria’s narration unfolds in free verse, a form that effectively shows both her halting, repetitive speech and the disparity between her inner thoughts and her ability to communicate them. Teens will enjoy ferreting out the reality from the conflicting narratives and arguing about the sensitive issues raised along the way.
Elizabeth Ward
"Fans of legal dramas might check out Alex Flinn's intriguing Fade To Black (HarperTempest, $16.99; ages 12-up). 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."
Washington Post
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2005: 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 readerconsider the plights and concerns of each character. A worthy and thought-provoking novel, with an eye-catching cover. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, HarperTempest, 184p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060568429
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/2/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 577,713
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Flinn loves fairy tales and is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Beastly, a spin on Beauty and the Beast that was named a VOYA Editor's Choice and an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Beastly is also a major motion picture starring Vanessa Hudgens. Alex also wrote A Kiss in Time, a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty; Cloaked, a humorous fairy tale mash-up; and Bewitching, a reimagining of fairy tale favorites, including Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, and The Little Mermaid, all told by Kendra—the witch from Beastly. Her other books for teens include Breathing Underwater, Breaking Point, Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, and Diva. She lives in Miami with her family.

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First Chapter

Fade to Black

Monday, 10:50 a.m., Principal Runnels's office,
Pinedale High School

How do they know I did it?

They ought to give me a stinking medal. If you asked most people around here "off the record," they'd agree with what I did. I mean, sure everybody wants to be politically correct -- whatever that's supposed to mean. Just because Pinedale's a cow town doesn't mean we're all rednecks without opposable thumbs, no matter what people from Miami might think. But people move here because it's a safe place. Or it was. No one wants to die. All the political correctness in the world's not worth that.

And most people would agree with that, "off the record."

But on the record, there's this little problem: they can't. That's why my butt's here in a green plastic chair in Principal Runnels's office instead of a plain old wooden chair in English class where it belongs.

I've been here an hour now, since they called me out of third period. And Runny-nose is nowhere to be found. His secretary, Miss Velez, acts like he's out on some kind of top-secret school business. But I know better. The one time, I got caught with Brett and Mo in that now-notorious mascot-swiping incident -- he was late then, too. When he finally showed up, he was carting groceries -- eggs and milk and Chips Ahoy. You'd think a big important principal would get his wife to do the shopping. But you'd be wrong. The man is PW, and if you don't know what that means, check with me sometime when I'm in a better mood and I'll tell you.

Miss Velez walks by, trying to look casual. But I'm pretty sure she's checking to make sure I haven't bolted. I stand when she comes in the room (my daddy taught me right) and say in my politest voice, "Excuse me, Ms. Velez?" She wants to be called Ms.

"Yes, Clinton?"

"Um, I was thinking if Principal Runnels won't be here for a while, could I maybe go back to class? We've got a test in English, and I sure do hate to miss it."

Or, more important, I hate to miss Alyssa Black. She has that class with me. Other girls, if they're pretty, I get tongue-tied. But Alyssa's different in the way she looks at me. It's not just that she's got beautiful eyes. But she sees me different, I feel like. Other girls see a big jock who runs with the pack. With Alyssa, it's like she . . . I don't know, understands me, maybe. Is that corny? It's like she can see inside to the part that's still this little fat kid no one likes much, the part I try to hide from most people. Today's the day I was planning on asking her to homecoming. It'll put a big dent in my plans if she knows I'm in here or if I get detention. Alyssa doesn't hang with delinquents.

Miss Velez glances at the clock. When she looks back, her face is sort of hard.

"No, Clinton, you can't go to class. They'll be with you in a few minutes."

She's gone before I get the chance to ask who "they" are.

Figures she'd be against me. Alex -- the guy this is all about -- he's a spic like she is. Or Latino as my mother would say. My father says those kinds of people always stick together. "That's the problem with 'em," he'd say. "With the whole damn State of Florida, really. You work a job your whole life, then some spic fires you and hires his second cousin. It started down in Miami, but darned if it isn't spreading up north. And soon, it'll be the last American in Florida, heading out and taking the flag with him."

My father ought to know because that's what happened to him. The getting fired part. My father was one of the most powerful men in Pinedale. But when he lost his job, my mother left him. She said it was because she couldn't stand being around his "attitudes" -- whatever that means -- but Dad says different. He got a new job out of state, and now I hardly see him. Mom won't let me call him much either, on account of the cost of long distance and all the child support Dad isn't paying. Dad can't really afford to call us, either. Mom would say that's a good thing. But I miss him.

My mom and I don't see eye to eye on much. She's sort of liberal, which is really what started this whole problem with the Crusans. She's always worrying about people's rights and so forth. When my little sister, Melody, started playing with Carolina Crusan at school, Mom said fine. Then Carolina invited Melody to sleep over their house. Mom said fine again. Go. Never mind that her HIV brother's going to unleash the black plague on Pinedale, Florida. Never mind that we don't know what type of germs and spores and junk is flying around their house (I always try not to breathe too much when I'm in class with him). Just go. Have fun. I tried to tell Melody not to eat anything over there and to wash her hands and not touch any sharp objects and not drink out of the glasses (was that really unreasonable?). But Mom made me shut up. "Stop scaring her, Clinton. She might say something to the Crusans." Like she's more worried about their feelings than her own daughter's safety.

That's when I realized I needed to take matters into my own hands. With Dad gone and Mom acting sort of crazy, what choice did I have? But I wasn't going to hurt the guy or nothing. I just wanted to scare him so he'd go back where he came from before anyone got hurt. I only wanted to protect my family, like my father would've.

Fade to Black. Copyright © by Alex Flinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Fade to Black by Alex Flinn

  1. What do you think Daria saw on the morning of October 27? Did she misunderstand what she saw, or did she merely have difficulty communicating with the police?
  2. In the early chapters, both Alex and Daria speak of feeling invisible or ignored. Does Clinton share this feeling? Why or why not? Do you see kids at school being treated like they're invisible, and for what reason?
  3. Alex describes Clinton as his "arch nemesis" and Clinton would probably agree that the two boys have little in common. Is this true? In what ways are Alex and Clinton alike? How are they different?
  4. How does Clinton justify his treatment of Alex at the beginning of the book? Does he change this attitude by the end, or does he merely agree with Alex to get out of trouble?
  5. Why do Alex's parents encourage him to lie about how he contracted HIV? How does this make him feel? Why does he want to tell the truth?
  6. Would it bother you, as it did Clinton, to have to sit next to Alex in class? Why? Did your attitude change after reading this book?
  7. Alex debates whether to tell the truth about Clinton's involvement in the crime. Do you think he would have been justified in lying? Why? What would you do in his situation?
  8. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story through three different characters' eyes? In what ways might the story have been told differently if it were told in only one viewpoint? Do you think the "truth" is affected by who is seeing it?
  9. Why do you think the author chose Daria as a narrator for the story? What does her narrative add?
  10. In what ways, if any, do the viewpoint characters grow in the course of the story? Which character do you think experiences the most growth?
  11. Why does Jennifer tell Alex the story about her experiences with her father?
  12. Discuss the relationships Alex, Clinton, and Daria have with their families? How are these relationships similar and different? In what ways do these relationships change in the course of the book?
  13. Did you feel sympathetic toward Clinton? What factors, if any, made him a sympathetic character?
  14. How do people at the school react to the crime against Alex? Do you think this is how you or people you know would react to a similar crime?
  15. Why is Jennifer drawn to Alex? Why does she talk to Clinton about him at school? Why does Alex get angry at her for doing so?
  16. What do you think would have happened if Clinton had never been accused of the baseball bat incident but, instead, had been picked up for throwing the rock? Would the outcome have been different? What would the relationship between the two boys have been if Clinton had been accused only of the crime he actually committed?
  17. Alex dislikes Pinedale, yet doesn't want to leave when his mother says they will go back to Miami. Why? How does his attitude toward Pinedale change during the course of the book? What factors contribute to this change?
  18. At the end of the book, Daria says, "Mama says I am still a hero." Is she? In what way?
  19. What is Alex's attitude toward Daria? Does it change in the course of the book? Why and how?
  20. If the three characters were unable to settle their differences but were, instead, required to testify under oath in a court of law, what would the likely outcome be?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2007


    I really dislike reading, but Alex Flinn's 'Fade to Black' was fantastic. It had a sense of reality to it. It shows what people really do think. This book, in my opinion, was one of the best books I've read. I'd recommend this book to anyone.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013


    When did the review section become a reltionship help line? Its really annoying for people( like me) trying to find out more about this book!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013


    Okay! I will be so nervous though. His name is Cruse. He is so dreamy. He is cute funny not really smart and creative. I love his eyes! They are so big and brown!!! Every time we look at each other i always smile and blush! It is so annoying. His cousin Ayden my best boy friend not dating boy friend sd he might like me but he is not sure. I just hope he does!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013


    Him. Ask out him. Oh never mind!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    To Aphrodite

    Im jade an i like this guy at school. His name is michel. I asked him out and he said no he was already dating someone. But he blushesed and i cant tell if he likes me or not. Help.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013


    But idk if my true self is the killer freak or the kind hearted...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Aphrodite to all

    My temple is now at ancient greece result 2

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    Highly Recommended!! check it out!

    The book starts off with a HIV positive teen named Alex Crusan driving his car early one morning when he gets attacked by a boy with a baseball bat. Later, they rush him to the hospital and he reportedly has multiple wounds found on is face and abdomen. The author in Fade to Black keeps you on your toes and makes you not want to stop reading. You can picture everything the author is trying to describe and he's very detailed within every passage. I would give this book a five out of five. Its very entertaining and interesting. It keeps you wanting to know more. No book comes close to being this good. I'm sure that many people could relate to the characters in this story. This is by far the best book I've ever read, even the very first page drew me in wanting to know more about this kid and the things he has to sacrifice just to live his life. The book is somewhat inspirational to people who might have terminal diseases and I think the overall message that their trying to get through is live your life to the fullest. I haven't found one book that even comes close to being as good as this one and I hope one day you guys have a chance to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    Very Good and thrilling

    The book Fade to Black by Alex Flinn is a very good book. It gives an example of what can really happen in real life. People sometimes dont trust somebody just because they are disabled. Things like these do happen and theres nothing we can do about it but just hope that the truth comes up. I find this book interesting because ive never before heard or read of a story/book that has to do with this topic.

    Platano Salami
    Timber Creek Class of 2010

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  • Posted April 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    best book ever

    I bought this book for my grandson. Below is his review of this book.


    It's the best book I've ever read. It keeps you in suspense. I am a fan of Alex Flinn.

    by: Johnny P.
    age 14

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I love this book!

    I have never read something like this before!
    -- in a good way :D

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2008


    This book is terrific it shows how you can make it through some in your teen life without getting fustrated.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Fade to Black

    The title of my book is Fade to Black by Alex Flinn. I believe the author¿s purpose for writing this book is to show people that even if you have a disease and bad things are happening to you, don¿t give up. Just because someone does do something to you doesn¿t mean that you have to ruin their life. I think Flinn wrote this book because he wanted to show people that even when odds are against you, if you keep pursuing what you want you will make it. I think the author intended on having teens read this book because the lesson could be taught best to them. I have heard a lot of stories from my parents talking about how they wished they would have forgave some of their friends for doing something to them that didn¿t really matter. The narrator¿s point of view is that no matter what age you can still stand up for yourself. Alex Crusan is the main character in this book, I feel he should have written it because he¿s the one with the sickness and he¿s the one that the theme is about. I could mostly relate to Clinton Cole. I could mostly relate to him because I have been in the same situation as him a lot. He gets blamed for something huge that he really didn¿t do, and I get that a lot. I feel the author did a good job and did get his success from writing the book. I feel he obtained all his goals. The book taught me the theme. I won¿t back down no matter what the odds are. If I feel I can do something, I¿m going to do it. This book is actually one of a kind. I haven¿t found one book, movie, or essays that are anything like this book. I don¿t really understand how the book title relates to the message of the book or how the book was written, either way it¿s a really good book. I recommend this book to anyone. I personally am not a reader, but I read the first couple of pages of this book and actually wanted to read it. I liked the ending of this book it explains a lot of this and says what happens to the people. I found this book to be enjoyable, it really draw¿s you in. I would give this book at 5 out of 5. It is very entertaining and it keeps you wondering what¿s going to happen next. It is by far the best book I have ever read. The first page of this book is better than any other book. ¿Maybe I am a ghost people look through like water, maybe I am invisible so they do not know who I am, maybe they think words are invisible so I cannot hear them say things about me in the hallways, but words are not invisible, and neither am I, and I will always, always hear them.¿ (Clinton Cole pg7-8)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2006


    Alex is a teenage who is HIV positive. Not many people want to be around him. This book shows the hardships that Alex has to go through. This book also shows how he has to deal with certain things. A boy named Clinton is one of Alex¿s worst enemies. Clinton hates Alex a lot. Can Alex turn Clinton into a friend and not an enemy? Read the book to find out. .............. **** I liked this book very much. This book shows what a person has to go through if they are HIV positive. I enjoyed this book very much. ****

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2006

    Good read.

    Alejandro 'Alex' Crusan is a seventeen-years-old Latino and HIV positive. His family moved from Miami to Pinedale, Florida. No one in his new school will touch him, much less befriend him. The only one that does not avoid Alex is Daria, the girl with Down Syndrome. Everyone avoids her too. But someone nearby hates Alex enough to learn his daily routine, followed by taking a baseball bat to Alex's car. The windows shatter, throwing tiny glass shards over Alex. The shards act as knives. ................. Daria does not lie. She tells the police what she saw. The police go after Clinton Cole. ...................... Clinton has been very vocal on his feelings about Alex being HIV positive from the beginning. Everyone agrees with Clinton however, no one believes Alex deserves what happened to him. When everyone begins avoiding Clinton, the teen starts to understand how Alex's isolation feels. Clinton swears he did not do it. Yet no one believes him. ...................... **** Author Alex Flinn writes in a way that teens can relate to. She has taken a few taboo topics and created a mystery that young adults will enjoy trying to figure out, while learning about delicate subjects. I enjoyed the story very much and recommend it to all. ****

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    a really great book

    I don't usualy like to read but I liked this book because I liked the way there were 3 diferent people telling the story. I really related to all the characters. It made it a really quick and easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2005

    It's Alittle Disappointing!!!

    I read the summary before the book actually came out. When it did come out, I ordered it off the internet and when I got it I was alittle dissapointed. It was just to short, oh and the ending has absolutely nothing to do with the first 100 pages you read. Alex Flinn, what has happened to your great writing skills, you really didnt show them in this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2005

    one of the best books i have read

    i think this is one of the best books i have read because it is exciting from beginning to end. i recommend it to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews

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