Vivian Vande Velde Main Page
Alison, Who Went Away
Ages: 12 & up
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Book Description:

Three years after the disappearance of her older sister, 14-year-old Sibyl and her family struggle to continue their lives, separately and together.

(out of print/no longer available in book stores)

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Review
Where do you GET those ideas?
Excerpt
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Review

"Female middle-level readers will find this novel engrossing, whether or not they are mystery fans. Alison's story is true to life, sadly illustrating that terrible events that no one can control do occur." -- VOYA

Where do you GET those ideas?

Alison, Who Went Away came from a whole bunch of ideas that were rattling around in my brain all at the same time, including:

(1) noticing that a lot of people ignore bad things that have happened, or talk about them in roundabout ways; for example, saying about someone, "He passed away," or "He's gone," or "He's crossed over," rather than saying, "He died."  I started imagining this fictional family and thinking about how they would express that their teenage daughter ran away from home and was probably dead, yet they still wait for her, even though in their hearts they know she's not coming back.

(2) thinking how on TV, murders and disappearances are solved in an hour time slot (including commercials), but in real life, there are crimes for which no one is ever arrested.  What is it like, I wondered, for people who never know for sure what has happened to a loved one?  How do they get on with their lives?

(3) (on a totally frivolous note) remembering some of my own experiences with things such as bad hair and being involved in school plays.

Normally, I write fantasy and science fiction.  Alison, Who Went Away is my first realistic novel. 

Excerpt

Chapter 1

There are three of us--well, actually five, if you count my parents. No, wait, actually six, if you count both my father and my stepfather. But I'm not--what I'm saying is there are three kids, not three people in the family.

There's my sister Alison, who moved away from home and who celebrated her nineteenth birthday--or didn't--without contacting us, and--I know, I know--nineteen is hardly a kid anymore, but I'm doing the counting, so I can count however I want.

I'm Sibyl--well, actually, Susan, but what kind of name is Susan for anybody who's younger than about forty-seven? I'm fourteen, which is a long way from forty-seven. Thank God.

Then there's my brother Bryan, who's five, which also is a long way from fourteen. Five from fourteen means I was nine when my mother and Wally were going about conceiving him, which was practically old enough for me to know what they were doing when they were doing it. I mean, you'd think parents would show a little self-restraint.

Not only that, but Bryan still wets his bed. No, wait, what I should say is he's started wetting his bed again, which for the most part I'd say is his own business, except that now he has to take a bath every morning. This means either I have to get up at something like five o'clock in the morning, or I have to keep banging on the door because Bryan takes these half-hour soaks, with the water constantly running, no less, so the poor little dear doesn't get chilled, and I have to keep reminding him that there's only a finite amount of water in the Western Hemisphere. And then when he finally does get out of the bathroom, leaving steamy mirrors and sodden towels behind, and I'm trying to take this lukewarm little shower, he invariably flushes the toilet in the powder room downstairs and my water practically turns off. I mean, how much pee is in the guy? You'd think he'd have lost it all at night.

Wally and Dad both say I could avoid the whole problem by taking my shower at night, which is about the only thing in the whole world they agree on, and which just goes to show how little men know about hair.

More Stuff

Link for National Runaway Switchboard