Fade to Black
About the book:
Alex Crusan, an HIV-positive student, was attacked by an assailant who shattered the windows of his car with a baseball bat. Alex is in the hospital with multiple injuries but who committed the crime? Was it Clinton Cole, who was seen riding his bike in the vicinity and has already harassed him at school and home? Did the witness, Daria Bickell, see him do it or is she confused? Told through all three voices- victim, witness, and the accused learn who is telling the truth.
About the author:
Alex Flinn is a former attorney whose fascination with witness reliability and bias led her to write Fade to Black. She is the author of three previous books: Breathing Underwater, an ALA Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults; Breaking Point, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers; and Nothing to Lose, one of ALA Booklist’s Top 10 Youth Mysteries. She lives in Miami with her husband and two daughters. Visit her on the web at www.alexflinn.com
1. Recall the setting of the story. How does it influence the events? Could this violence happen anywhere? Why or why not?
2. Name the main characters in the story and describe each of them.
1. Explain how Clinton Cole feels about Alex.
2. Summarize the events on the night in question.
1. Prepare an interview for both Clinton and Alex about the attack. Answer as they would.
2. Create a study guide of questions and answers about the book. Consider questions on characters, plot, theme and resolution.
1. Analyze the motivations of Jennifer. Why does Alex question her motivations? Do you agree with him?
2. Examine the poems of Daria. What do they reveal about her as a person?
1. Rewrite three of Daria’s entries in a letter format rather than a poem. Use the meaning of the original text but not the words.
2. Perform a scene between two of the characters that got cut from the original story. (Like a DVD extra at the end of films). Be sure it stays true to the integrity of the characters and plot.
1. Which of Alex Flinn’s novels is your favorite? Why?
2. What scene will you still be thinking about weeks after you have closed the book? Why?
Multiple Intelligence Projects:
In small groups research one of the following topics from the novel and create a pamphlet or PowerPoint and give a presentation to the class about your findings:
HIV in teens
New treatments for HIV-AIDS
Witness reliability and bias
Create a graph about HIV based on statistics. Do not just copy a graph from another source. Be sure to label the information appropriately and explain its significance in a brief paragraph.
Create a collage piece of art that represents the events of the novel. It can either be an abstract piece or realistic but explain your process in a short journal.
Write and act a scene that exists for these characters either before the opening of the novel or after its close.
Arrange for someone who students have never seen before to make a brief appearance in the classroom under the guise of some errand. Then, after he or she exits, have them try to describe the person in as much detail as possible in a short paragraph. Share the responses. Then have the stranger reappear and discuss the results of the experiment. Discuss these questions: How reliable is witness testimony? Would you want your own freedom based on a witness? Should witness testimony even be admitted in court or should it be corroborated by other facts?
In small groups discuss these issues from the novel:
- If you were Alex would you keep the source of the disease a secret? Why or why not? Do you think his parents knew the truth?
- Was Alex right to lash out at Jennifer’s treatment of him?
- How would this story be different if Alex had been gay?
- How typical is Clinton Cole’s attitudes and behavior?
- Is Daria a hero as her mother tells her?
- How can people with handicaps be more included into a school community?