Cover image for Alison, who went away
Alison, who went away
Vande Velde, Vivian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Physical Description:
211 pages ; 22 cm
Three years after the disappearance of her older sister, fourteen-year-old Sibyl and her family struggle to continue their lives, separately and together.
Reading Level:
900 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 7.0 48317.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.2 12 Quiz: 33306 Guided reading level: V.
Format :


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Material Type
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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Fourteen-year-old Susan (or, as she prefers to be called, Sybil) has been trying to reinvent herself ever since the mysterious disappearance of her older sister, Alison. Life has been very confusing since Alison left. Susan's mother has become overly protective, fearful of losing another child. Her new school is not all bad, of course, but it is different and puzzling. Her best friend, Connie, has what could be a wonderful idea -- or maybe it has the makings of a disaster: if theysign up for the school play, they might end up with dates for the freshman dance.
Readers will empathize with Susan's attempt to make sense of her confused world, the loss of her sister, a new school, turmoil at home, and the growing pains of adolescence. But Susan, despite all, remains bright, funny, and self aware with the help of a new and intelligently supportive stepfather and a lively group of school friends. The story is believable and touching and distinguished by the narrator's voice.

Author Notes

Vivian Vande Velde (born 1951, Rochester, New York) is an American author who writes books primarily aimed at children and young adults. She currently resides in Rochester, New York. Her novels and short story collections usually contain elements of horror, fantasy, and humor. Her book Never Trust a Dead Man (1999) received the 2000 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-8. Fourteen-year-old Susan, or Sybil as she has begun to call herself, lives in the shadow of her older sister, Alison, who has disappeared, leaving a traumatized family that exists in constant fear of losing another child. Susan has always been the good girl, Alison the rebel. Susan is sure that her sister has only run away, in spite of clues that lead the reader to suspect otherwise. Filled with the everyday angst of growing up--bad hair days, crushes on seniors who disappoint, the all-absorbing school play, absent fathers and unwanted stepfathers, and teachers well-intentioned or intolerant--Susan's life seems too normal to trigger the book's dramatic climax. Young teens who enjoy Carolyn Cooney will find this a satisfying read--a high-school story laced with a dose of sadness and mystery. --Frances Bradburn

Publisher's Weekly Review

As in Michael Cadnum's more suspenseful Zero at the Bone and Susan Beth Pfeffer's more poignant The Year Without Michael, the protagonist of this awkward contemporary drama is forced to live with the mysterious disappearance of a sibling. The 14-year-old narrator, Susan (or Sibyl, as she prefers to call herself), does what she can to escape the shadow of her older sister, Alison, who was beautiful, smart and creative. At first Susan simply states that Alison has "moved away." But references to other tensions in Susan's family hint at darker circumstances, and classroom discussions of a local serial killer tip Vande Velde's (The Rumpelstiltskin Problem) hand, even to imperceptive readers. As the novel progresses, Susan takes part in a play at the local boys' school, where she gets a chance to test out her attraction to a rebellious older teen; flashbacks shed light on family dynamics. At long last Alison is shown to have been seriously troubled, and Susan and her family, all of whom feel guilt over Alison's problems, must face the reality that they may never learn what happened to her. The revelations about Alison are too slow in coming to sustain the narrative tension; on the other hand, Susan's insights are achieved too quickly to make a lasting impression. Ages 10-14. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-It seems that 14-year-old Sibyl's most pressing problem is finding an acceptable date for the freshman dance at their all-girls school. Not to worry! Best friend, Connie, cooks up a plan that gets them cast in the play at Cardinal O'Gorman High, the all-boys school nearby. Most of the novel's surface action plays out against the backdrop of their rehearsals, with the normal teen-angst problems of boys, bad hair, and bratty brothers. Under the surface, however, much more is going on in Sibyl's life. Slowly, mostly through a series of flashbacks, readers learn from Sibyl that she has a gay father who left when she was five; a five-year-old, bed-wetting half-brother who can't adjust to life (but readers don't know why he is so unstable); a mother who is obsessively overprotective; and an older sister who left home three years ago and hasn't been heard from since. Through the course of the novel, readers slowly realize that the family is in denial that Alison may have been one of the prostitutes murdered by serial killer Robert Deitz. With this slight novel, Vande Velde, who is best known for her fantasies, has dived into the realism genre headfirst. Unfortunately, the book reads as though the author went down the list and tried to include every adolescent problem she could think of for her protagonist to deal with. The result is a somewhat shallow, unsatisfying story.-Betty S. Evans, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.