Fade in my opinion is Cormier’s best, certainly his most “literary” novel. It was neither written nor first published as an adolescent novel, but contains all the elements that made his young adult books so outstanding. Even though he is often called a “master of realism,” Cormier has entered the realm of science fiction with Fade and explores the old and tempting question “What if you could make yourself invisible?”The book starts out with an almost autobiographical part about one Paul Moreaux’s childhood in the Frenchtown section of Monument in the late 1930s. When he is thirteen, the boy is puzzled about an old family picture in which his Uncle Adelard is missing, even though he should have been there. In the course of one summer, Paul is troubled by his awakening sexuality, encounters the Ku Klux Klan, is involved in many childhood pranks with his best friend Pete, and finally learns about the secret of the “Fade,” when his uncle comes to town. The “Fade,” the ability to become invisible, is always passed on from uncle to nephew, and Paul inherited it from Adelard. In the following chapters, Paul experiments with the “Fade” and learns that it is a curse rather than a blessing. He witnesses acts of sexual abuse and incest between his best friends, savagely beats up the local bully Omer LaBatt and finally even commits murder.The second part of the book is told from the point of view of Susan Roget, who in 1988 works for Meredith, the agent of her distant relative Paul Roget, who was a famous novelist and died in 1967. She discovers a manuscript – the first part of Fade – which Meredith has hidden.
The two women are deeply troubled and wonder if the story is fact or fiction. They interview some of Paul’s relatives, and finally Susan comes across the second part of the manuscript, told by Paul as an adult. He gives an account of his search for the new “Fader.” He finally finds the boy, his sister’s illegitimate child, in a small town in Maine. Ozzie is deeply disturbed, has been abused and neglected and follows the commands of “a voice inside his head” that tells him to commit crimes and murder, when he discovers the “Fade.” It comes to a dramatic, “Stephen-King-like” showdown between the two faders, and Paul finally has to kill his nephew. Susan is left totally disturbed and wondering if there might be another “Fader” somewhere out there.Fade is simply another great story by Cormier. He creates a whole family-tree of people, and the main characters are unbelievably round and convincing. The basic premise (”What if you were invisible?”), the well-crafted narrative structure, the account of growing up in the 1930s and the everyday teenage problems that trouble thirteen-year-old Paul make this a great read for young people. There are thousands of theoretical and especially creative approaches to this novel waiting to be used in the classroom. It is not very similar to Robert Cormier’s other adolescent novels, but tells a lot about the author himself and shows another side of him: Cormier as a writer of science fiction and horror. No wonder that Stephen King called this “easily his best book.”