Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Favorite Banned Books: Fade

This week, September 27-October 3, is Banned Books Week, a time to honor those authors and their books that have created waves of controversy among the selfish and simple-minded.

Who has the right to tell you what to read? No one. Except me. Put "Fade" on your TBR list if you haven't already. And spread the word.

"Fade" by Robert Cormier has been banned and probably burned in many places. Why? Well, why not? It's got murder and rape and incest and a kid spying on other people because he can make himself invisible. I didn't read this book until I was in my early 20s but it still had a big impact on me as a reader and continues to do so as a writer. You would think that a tale of someone who can be invisible would be heroic - superheroic - with lots of derring-do and discovery but this is very, very dark.

What if you had an ability that caused you more pain because of what you could do with it? The temptations that you would face to use it unwisely, perhaps immorally, would be a constant challenge, to say the least.

The story is told across 3 decades by and about 3 different characters. There is teenage Paul who tells the story of how he first learned of his ability to fade, an ability that affects one member of each generation of his family. Fading seems like it would be cool for young Paul but he soon sees things that he doesn't want to. As an adult, Paul learns that his nephew is the next fader in the family but poor Oscar has been abused and uses it for revenge. And finally, the third story is told by Susan, Paul's cousin who is a writer, who finds his memoir and has to figure out if it was true or not.

Cormier's books are frequently challenged by parents and library patrons. People seem to want him to write neat and tidy stories of teens for teens when, in fact, he writes about real life. Can a person really fade to invisibility? Well, no but you certainly can feel like it. You can feel what it's like to be persona non grata, to be an outsider whom no one pays attention to. And yes, all of those nasty things do happen in our world. I love Cormier's books, including "The Chocolate War" (brilliant!!) and "I Am the Cheese."

Tomorrow...The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.