Happy Saturday, Part 2!
We're reviewing Silent Alarm today, and also trying something new. When I told fellow bloggers and readers that I was reading this book, they informed me that they wanted to also write posts recognizing the importance of this book.
So while I kick off the book with a review today, we're going to be revisiting this book in weeks to come, with reviews and posts on both this blog and other blogs on the importance of Jennifer Banash's book.
Read on for my review and a hint of what's to come!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Format read: Finished copy via Publisher
Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.
Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story.
Jennifer Banash introduces us to Alys, a promising young musician who is forced to live with the aftermath of a mass school shooting caused by her brother. Even as she struggles with the gravity of what her brother Luke has done, she also tries to reconcile the brother she knew, with the person that is now being demonized by the community and in the media.
While school shootings have become a more prevalent topic within fiction over the past couple of years, Banash makes the unique choice of letting the post-shooting aftermath unfold through the eyes of the shooter's sister. By putting us directly in the mind of Alys, the reader is forced to reconcile the idea that tragedy is universal in situations like these.
Just like those who have lost friends and family, Alys experiences grief and guilt, along with a sense of disbelief. One of the most heartbreaking moments of the book comes when Alys first tries to believe that the shooting is an accident, only to come face-to-face with her brother's videotaped manifestos. There's no denying his willful intent to harm after that, and Alys is forced to begin questioning just how she missed the burgeoning darkness in her brother.
This ongoing internal debate on determining when and how the darkness began, often takes place through Banash's stylistic decision of having Alys's unspoken thoughts included in italics throughout the book, and hallucinations of Luke following Alys around. As we dig deeper into just how Luke became the person who shoots and kills so many innocent victims, we see Alys increasingly realize that there sometimes just won't be sought-for answers to an unfathomable situation.
Outside of the journey that Alys personally undergoes, Banash also poses the question of just what it takes for a family to stay together in circumstances like these. Unlike the family of Finding Jake, Alys's family has trouble recognizing that there isn't specific blame to be assigned for Luke's decisions. It ends up fracturing their relationships with one another; a stark but realistic result of trauma.
While readers will undoubtedly feel Alys's grief at watching her family fall apart, readers will likely also appreciate Banash's recognition that Alys has the internal strength and grace of mind to accept the situation, and continue to fight for her right to move on with her life.
Finally, like other books that have dealt with traumatic situations, Banash does challenge the reader to consider just how a community chooses to react in the face of tragedy. Because Luke is no longer around to take the blame for shooting, Alys and her parents become easy targets. People are angry with them because they can be, and Banash asks us to consider just what this type of anger can do a community trying to cover.
All in all, Silent Alarm is a brave book, asking tough questions and recognizing even tougher situations through the eyes of one girl being forced to face the unthinkable. You would be remiss in not picking this book up, and I encourage all of you to do so immediately.
And it's for those very reasons that Silent Alarm is a must-read for anyone. Banash asks us to look beyond our own perceptions, and consider those in other shoes. It's an important and timely lesson, one which I think readers of all ages will find value in. Highly recommend for everyone, full stop.
Check out the rest of the posts:
Then back to The Reading Nook Reviews for:
Three guest posts by three different writers, including two librarians and a caseworker, all of whom have interesting insights to share.
About the author:
Jennifer Banash is the author of the critically acclaimed Young Adult novel, White Lines, published by G.P. Putnam & Sons, and the fothcoming novel Silent Alarm, which will be released in March, 2015. Banash is also the author of The Elite series of books from Berkeley Jam which includes The Elite, In Too Deep, and Simply Irresistible. Banash lives, work, and writes in Los Angeles, California, with her daughter, Story, partner Willy, and two slightly food-obsessed beagles.