[The Disappearance is] particularly good in its ability to evoke a sense of place—the contrasts between middle-class black New York (Brooklyn) and the crime-ridden ghetto of Harlem. Imamu, a teenager in trouble with the police, is fostered by a kindly, fairly well-to-do family, whose attitudes to him change for the worse when their younger daughter, Perk, disappears. It is interesting to see how black liberal modes of thinking crumble; how the tensions within the family turn to ugly hysteria when the smooth easy-going surface of their lives is destroyed.
The characters are credible; they develop and grow, not always in the way the reader expects. But the book is marred by absurdly improbable twists in the plot—Perk is killed by her Aunt Dora and buried in wet cement when she discovers that Dora's beautiful hair is a wig. No one of any age is going to accept that very easily. It reflects the author's uncertain feelings about writing for adolescents—that somehow subtly changing relationships are not enough; that, to hold the reader's attention, a grisly crime story has to be tagged on to what is otherwise a persuasive portrayal of real life.
David Rees, "Approaching Adulthood," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1980; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 4034, July 18, 1980, p. 807.∗