Cover image for Vanishing
Brooks, Bruce.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Laura Geringer Book, [1999]

Physical Description:
103 pages ; 22 cm
Eleven-year-old Alice is unwilling to return to live with her alcoholic mother and her stern stepfather, so she refuses to eat to the point of slowly starving herself, in order to remain in the hospital.
Reading Level:
980 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.8 3.0 34747.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 7.7 5 Quiz: 17232 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Alice just can't stop crying. To her, it seems as if it should be simple. If your parents split up, you live with the one who understands you best. Alice's father had always been the one to "get" her. But somehow she had ended up living with her mom, who drank too much, and her stepfather, who didn't like her and didn't care who knew it. So when a bout with bronchitis lands her in the hospital, she decided she just can't face going home again--ever.What if she simply stops eating--goes on a hunger strike? They would have to keep her there, wouldn't they? It seems like the simplest solution, even when the hallucinations start, even when they kind of take over. But suppose she goes into a coma--or dies? If that happens, she'll have her new friend Rex, the mysterious boy who says "he's" dying, but whose jaunty ways have brought Alice to life.Once again, Bruce Brooks tells an intriguing story that puts new twists on the oldest, biggest issues--love, death, and taking charge of your own life as you move toward adulthood.

Author Notes

Bruce Brooks was born in Richmond, Virginia on September 23, 1950. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972 and from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1980. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, newsletter editor, movie critic, teacher and lecturer.

He has written several children's books including Everywhere, Midnight Hour Encores, Asylum for Nightface, Vanishing, No Kidding, and Throwing Smoke. He has received the Newbery Honor twice, first for The Moves Make the Man in 1985 and then for What Hearts in 1992.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Brooks is always challenging, and here he tells a very powerful story very simply. Eleven-year-old Alice has stopped eating: hospitalized for bronchitis, she figures if she does not eat, she cannot be sent home to her alcoholic mother and bitter stepfather, or to her father, who has chosen peace with Alice's grandmother over caring for his daughter. Hospitalized with Alice is a boy who calls himself Rex, the Prince of Remission, a fiery, outspoken boy who rages against his terminal illness with all his energy. Rex is deeply alive: he is a real 11-year-old boy applying his considerable intelligence to figuring out what it means to die. And it is Rex who brings to Alice the realization that she can do more than just give up things. Brooks does not shy away from describing the sense of control over her destiny that Alice feels with every mouthful she doesn't eat, and he describes in eerily perfect detail the light-filled hallucinations that can come with starvation. Doctors and nurses and parents do not come off well, though Brooks allows us a glimpse of sympathy for each and all of them, and a tender psychiatrist makes an appearance. Readers will feel to their very bones that it isn't Rex's dying that makes the difference to Alice but his living. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Beginning with an out-of-body experience for the protagonist, the frequently dreamlike atmosphere of this novel distances the audience from the weighty events occurring here. Alice is an 11-year-old girl whose hunger strike takes her precariously towards death. Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn that Alice is hospitalized for bronchitis because of her father's and grandmother's neglect, and she intentionally stops eating in order to avoid being released to her alcoholic mother and her hateful stepfather. Alice enjoys the heady sensation of defying gravity with her lightness ("She felt herself going a little higher, feeling a little lighter, a little more joyous"). Meanwhile, her roommate, Rex, a cancer patient, concentrates his energies on remaining earthbound. Brooks (What Hearts) draws a compelling parallel between the two children as they struggle to control their fates. Yet Alice and Rex speak to each other in clinical, self-consciously pedantic terms ("You're the legendary Prince of Remission... Whereas I am merely a girl on a hunger strike... still subject to trifling fears at the idea of disappearing into a total lack of consciousness for an indefinite period, possibly forever," says Alice). These exchanges belie the affection Alice must harbor for Rex in order to justify her actions in the closing chapters. The sense of detachment Alice feels during her "lightness" episodes pervades the novel and even extends to her relationship with Rex. At the penultimate moment, when Alice finally "comes down" to be at Rex's side at the critical juncture in his illness, readers will likely wonder why. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8Vanishing is what 11-year-old Alice is in the process of doing. When she is hospitalized for bronchitis, she is also at a point where shes caught between two impossible situationsliving with her alcoholic mother and snarling stepfather, or, with her ineffectual father and rejecting grandmother. She realizes that if she stops eating she can remain in the hospital and thats exactly what she does. Brooks describes her hospital stay and her relationship with Rex, a fellow patient with a terminal illness. The author presents these bleak events with style and a considerable amount of dramatic tension and offers a resolution that holds at least a small measure of hope. His sympathies are obviously with Alice and Rex, while most of the adults (with the exception of an understanding therapist) are presented in a (deservedly) negative light, and they are too sketchily drawn for readers to understand their actions or motivation. Alices mother, in fact, borders on being a caricature. When Alice asks what she would do if she (Alice) died, the mother replies, Attend your funeral, probably. Also, Alices precociousness isnt convincing. Still, this is a deeply felt, unusual, and absorbing story. Its not for every reader, but kids with a melodramatic turn of mind may love it.Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.