by Nova Ren Suma
Original Publication Date: September 17, 2009
Length: 288 pages
Obtained Via: Bought
Publisher: Simon Pulse
View at the Traffic light:
Life echoes art in this sassy, heartwrenching coming-of-age story from the author of Imaginary Girls.
It’s summer and Dani Callanzano has been abandoned by everyone she knows. Her dad moved out, her mom is all preoccupied being broken-hearted, and her closest friend just moved away. Basically it’s the end of the world.
At least she has the Little Art, her favorite local arthouse movie theater. Dani loves all the old black-and-white noir thrillers with their damsels in distress and their low camera angles. It also doesn’t hurt that Jackson, the guy who works the projection reel, is super cute and nice and funny. And completely off-limits, of course—he’s Dani’s friend’s boyfriend, and they are totally, utterly perfect together.
But one day, Dani stumbles across a shocking secret about Jackson—a secret too terrible for her to keep. She finds herself caught in the middle of a love triangle with enough drama to rival the noir-est film noir she’s ever seen.
Note: This book was originally published as a middle grade under the title Dani Noir, then repackaged and marketed as YA under the title Fade Out.
Even though Nova Ren Suma’s debut was later rebranded and marketed towards an older audience, I would say that Fade Out is pretty solidly middle grade. Dani’s in her summer between sixth and seventh grade and the themes all felt more like a middle grade than a young adult book to me. Having read most of Nova Ren Suma’s books(all but one), Fade Out threw me a little bit off balance. It’s for a younger audience, obviously, but there were other things too. Fade Out is pure, 100% realistic fiction, unlike the magical realism elements of Imaginary Girls or The Walls Around Us.
It’s also a debut, and I think it shows. Fade Out is well-written, yes, but in the other books I’ve read by Nova Ren Suma, her prose isn’t just good–it’s exceptional. I wanted to crawl into the words and live between them. I delighted in every sentence. I would not hesitate to call her other books some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. Fade Out has some wonderful lines and beautiful parts, but it’s not quite the same. There’s not quite that conciseness, that sharp intent yet. Everything was a little fuzzier and less defined that I would expect.
Still, I felt myself pulled into Dani’s story. Dani’s parents have recently separated, and her summer hasn’t been going so great. She’s been escaping into a local independent theater to watch her favorite noir films, but one day she sees the teenage boy who works the reel–Jackson–with a girl Dani doesn’t recognize, a fact she finds odd considering she knows Jackson’s girlfriend. Dani’s determined to catch Jackson in his lies and starts plotting.
I didn’t really find myself drawn to the plot in this book. I didn’t hate it, but it was by far my least favorite aspect of the book. I was more interested in Dani and the characters around her than her scheme to catch Jackson. Dani’s voice comes through so clear that it was pretty delightful. She imagines her life to be a noir movie, and it’s interesting to see this thirteen-year-old girl be so wise at points and then so self-important at others–in that way, Fade Out rang pretty true to life.
I’m glad I read Fade Out just to experience more of Nova Ren Suma’s words, but this is by far my least favorite of her books I’ve read so far. It was compelling at times and I liked the inclusion of noir movies, but ultimately it was a story I liked at the time but will probably never re-visit. It think if you’ve liked Nova Ren Suma’s other books it’s worth giving this one a shot, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with it.
Fade Out captured my attention while reading, but it didn’t really make a lasting impression. 3/5 cupcakes.