The mysterious disappearance of Aidan S. by David Levithan
Twelve year old Aidan shares a room with his 11 year old brother Lucas; they are not only close in age but Lucas thought they were close in everything, that is, until Aidan goes missing for six days. The search becomes more and more serious as the day pass and Lucas is subjected to intense questioning as to why his brother should have left and where he might have gone. By day five there is a sense they are looking for a body rather than a missing child, then, on the evening of day six Lucas hears a sound in the attic and finds Aidan sprawled in front of an old dresser, looking lost. When Lucas asks where he has been he says "Avienieu". Once the joy of reunion fades, the need to know where he has been takes its place. Everyone wants to know Aidan's story but a story can be real or made up and once a story is shared it can be taken over by other people and you lose control of it. Lucas resolves to record Aidan's story without judgement and we learn more about his Narnia like experience of Avienieu, a fantastic otherworld, and his complicated feelings about returning. Lucas also records how his brother is changed and seems lost, the target for the frustrations experienced by his family and the judging world we live in.
This is not a fantasy story, there is little world building, it is about the scariest thing that ever happened to this family, the aftermath of Aidan's disappearance and how they find a way to move on. The subtitle "(as told to his brother)" places the narrative firmly inside the family as they struggle to understand. There is the constant tension as we anticipate a 'true' explanation while their relationships with their community, school and each other deteriorate. It seems that when something like this happens the best we can hope for is that something more suprising will happen to someone else, to divert attention elsewhere. As for the boys, what turns out to be important is Lucas's belief, support and protection of his sibling, a positive message delivered in a fluent, engaging narrative.
Recommended for middle school students and lovers of Levithan's many other YA books.
Themes: Siblings, Family.