Fade is possibly the blackest of Cormier’s realist young-adult novels, and there is some question whether it is a young-adult work at all. Cormier seems to be aspiring to the popular adult genre (popular with teenagers, as well) presided over by such writers as Stephen King and V. C. Andrews. The sex, the violence, and, more than anything, the tone of this supernatural story raise questions about its appropriateness for the teenage audience.
The summary printed on the publishing information page (a common practice in young-adult novels) only hints at the violence of the novel: “Paul Moreaux, the thirteen-year-old son of French Canadian immigrants, inherits the ability to become invisible, but this power soon leads to death and destruction,” The novel itself is broken into five uneven parts.
In the first, Paul Moreaux narrates the story of his realization in 1938, at the age of thirteen, of his fateful power. Paul discovers, from his Uncle Adelard, that every generation of this fated family produces a member with the supernatural power to become invisible. The nomadic Adelard has it; now he identifies it in his nephew Paul. The power seems to be a teenager’s fantasy come true: to be able to go into houses unseen and spy on lives. What Paul witnesses while in “the fade,” however, hardly brings him joy: He sees only the evil, including his own, of which humans are capable, especially behind closed doors. In particular, he witnesses two sexual acts (cunnilingus and incest) and spies on and lusts after his own Aunt Rosanna.
The power of the first half of the novel lies not only in Paul’s story of his newfound invisibility but also in the broader background of Paul’s history. In no earlier Cormier...
(The entire section is 715 words.)