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Fade to Us

Review

Fade to Us

Sometimes a change of plans can give your life a new direction. When 17-year-old Brooke Byers gives up her lucrative summer job at a fine jewelry store to volunteer at the drama camp her stepsister attends, she develops rewarding relationships and a passion for a new craft. Brooke’s sibling Natalie, who battles Asperger’s syndrome, bravely introduces Brooke to the excitement of theater as well as a cute stage manager. In FADE TO US, author Julia Day thoughtfully explores the challenges of blended families, autism and putting on a musical production.

The heartwarming story takes place in the quaint town of Azalea Springs, North Carolina, where Brooke, her mom Jill, and Jill’s new husband Jeff are transitioning into their summer schedules. The bucolic setting provides the tranquil background for the storm developing within the newly formed family. Conflict begins when Jeff, a retired Army engineer, receives a call from his ex-wife, which transforms their “well-ordered summer into chaos.” Natalie, Jeff’s daughter, will be coming to live with them while Natalie’s mom recovers from health problems and cares for her new baby. The teenage Natalie does not drive and cannot be left alone for very long. Julia Day introduces young adult readers to the complexities of Asperger’s through a most inspiring character.

"Julia Day’s characters seem genuine because her descriptions are so thoughtful and vivid."

The beautiful Natalie has an “unfiltered honesty” and “definite opinions about how her world should be organized.” Many peers find her annoying and obnoxious, but Brooke recognizes her new stepsister’s talents. Brooke encourages Natalie to enroll in a summer theater program, and Natalie lands a part in “Oklahoma.” Through meltdowns and letdowns, the devoted Brooke volunteers backstage as a director’s assistant to support Natalie. Brooke becomes the true heroine of the story as she puts Natalie’s needs before her own.

Julia Day’s characters seem genuine because her descriptions are so thoughtful and vivid. When Brooke asks Natalie how a meltdown feels, she responds, “You get so mad at yourself, because you know the thing that set you off isn’t worth the reaction you’re having, but you can’t control it. It’s like…knocking over a cup of tea. It goes everywhere, staining as it spreads, but you can’t take it back. You just have to get over yourself and mop up the mess.” As I read this moving novel, I gained a better understanding of what someone with Asperger’s experiences. I didn’t feel sorry for Natalie, but I actually admired her.

Natalie blossoms at theater camp, and Brooke takes pride in her stepsister. Brooke explains, “Pride wrapped me in a bubble-muffling everything except the sight and sound of my stepsister. I’d known Natalie’s voice was clear and lovely, but I hadn’t thought about how stunning she was onstage.” The girls’ relationship has never been stronger until Brooke falls for Micah, Natalie’s mentor.

Can Natalie accept Brooke’s crush on the cute stage manager? Should Brooke sacrifice having a boyfriend to protect her sibling from feeling left out? Does Brooke deserve some happiness for herself? FADE TO US spotlights the conflicts of sisterhood, romance and friendship. The credible characters, the intimate dialogue and the motivating themes make the novel a must-read. Author Julia Day’s story is simple, yet its message is very meaningful: if you give of yourself to someone else in need, you may gain a more rewarding life.

Reviewed by Juliette G., Teen Board Member on February 14, 2018

Fade to Us
by Julia Day