How to Disappear Completely

How to Disappear Completely
Age Range
Release Date
April 28, 2020
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"When Emma discovers the first spot, 'like a tiny bright moon' on her left foot, she's at the funeral of her grandmother, who had been her best friend as well. The diagnosis is vitiligo, a skin condition triggered by stress. Creating a large multigenerational cast, Standish knits an absorbing story of loss, identity, and human connections. A rewarding, realistic novel, illuminated by magical elements." —Booklist (starred review)

Wonder meets Some Kind of Happiness in this powerful tween novel from Ali Standish, author of the Carnegie Medal nominee The Ethan I Was Before and August Isle.

While her grandmother was alive, Emma’s world was filled with enchantment. But now Gram is gone, and suddenly strange spots are appearing on Emma’s skin. Soon, she’s diagnosed with vitiligo—a condition that makes patches of her skin lose their color—and the magic in her world is suddenly replaced with school bullies and doctor appointments.

But when Emma writes one last story in the journal she shared with Gram, something strange happens. Someone writes back to her, just like Gram used to. Who’s writing to Emma? And just what is her story going to be, now that everything is so different?

Award-winning author Ali Standish explores the ways life transforms us, and how we learn to let go of what we must while still holding fast to who we are.

"Seamlessly blending childhood wonder with the slow lessons of maturity, this tale succeeds in celebrating curiosity, thoughtfulness, and collaboration, centering on relatable characters who welcome readers into their world." —Publishers Weekly

Editor review

1 review
beautiful middle grade read about acceptance
Overall rating
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HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY is a beautiful story about grief and self-confidence. Emma was very close to her grandmother, who recently died of cancer. Her family had moved to town to spend time with her before her death, but Emma and she had always been close. Her grandmother had showed her a magical spot in the woods where the faerie folk lived. Now that she has died, Emma feels lost and sad.

She also notices a white spot on her skin near her toes for the first time. As she starts at a new school, she finds that she has made an enemy of another girl without fully understanding why. However, she also meets a great new friend, Fina, who helps her to be able to brush off the trouble.

The white spots seem to be spreading, and Emma learns she has vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder caused by stress. This is fodder for the bullies at school, and her mother seems to be working hard to fix it. Emma isn't even sure if she wants to fix it and feels a little lost. With her friend and the guidance she imagines from her grandmother, she learns to embrace herself and work to understand others through kindness.

What I loved: The fairytale elements were a minor part of the story, and we mostly read a heartfelt account of loss, friendship, bullies, and embracing yourself as you are. Emma is a great main character, and she is easy to understand and bond with. She also approaches people with kindness that really makes her special. The themes of grief, bullying, and feeling different are ones that will resonate with the middle grade audience. This is a really lovely story that comes together to complete the picture Emma has of her grandmother and to keep her self-confidence despite difficulties.

Final verdict: HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY is a fantastic and beautifully written story of self-confidence, grief, and connecting with others. Highly recommend for the middle grade audience with whom this will resonate.
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