Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

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I received this book for free from Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer BanashSilent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
Published by Putnam Juvenile on March 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Penguin Canada
Buy on Amazon

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.

This was very dark, very gritty, and very powerful. I have read a few books about school shootings, and while my favorite will always be Nineteen Minutes, this is one I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

Silent Alarm focuses more on after the fact than the shooting itself. We do see the event unfold, but the story is more about Alys having to live with what her brother did. As expected, there’s a great amount of grief, of guilt, of “what ifs” on her part. Her character is developed in a way that even though she closes herself off emotionally – self preservation and all – she still lets us in. With many emotional books like this, I keep myself at arm’s length due to the overwhelming nature of the character’s state of mind, but with Alys, I was still able to fully immerse myself into her shoes. I didn’t fear the grief she was trying to push away, I wanted to be there for her.

This highly character based novel touches on many aspects surrounding such a tragedy. The reaction of the community – the need for everyone to lay blame on the family – is very real and very hurtful. People do react like that in real life, and it’s unfortunate, yet you can’t help but understand both sides. Blame is a natural human response to grief, a destructive response, but we rarely put ourselves in the others’ shoes. In this novel, we see exactly how this affects Alys’s family. A family that is stopped in its tracks, shocked by what their son did, but a family that is grieving like all the others nonetheless. It’s sad to see her friends and even boyfriend turn against her for what she couldn’t control, but it’s also good to see who your real friends are in these situations. I was happy that she had at least one shoulder to lean on -her brother’s best friend – to help slow down, even if it’s just a little bit, this downward spiral. Don’t take this as a sign of romance, however. This book has only the tiniest touch of romance – if I even dare call it that. It’s more like a longing of what she once had.

Even though the writing overall was good and emotionally charged, I was not a fan of the style she uses to convey Alys’ real opinion of what her brother did. We’d get random bits of internal dialogue inside parenthesis, usually mid sentence, that I found pretty distracting. Fortunately it’s not used excessively, so it doesn’t become a huge deal. Also, don’t expect some clear-cut, intensely plotted book full of twists and shocking turns. This novel is a character-driven story, through and through.

Highly recommended to fans of dark contemporaries, Silent Alarm is an honest and raw look at grief, at someone’s life changing drastically one tragic afternoon.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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8 Responses to “Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    This is the first time I’m hearing of this book, but I can imagine how emotional it must have been to read it. School shootings are always so hard even in books. I like the sound of the characterizations although I hope the writing won’t confuse me too much. I’ll have to consider this one for sure.
    Great review, Giselle! 🙂

  2. JennRenee

    I haven’t heard of this book before. It sounds intense and something that is good to read. I have not read any books on school shootings. I have been a bit nervous about it and glad to see some good ones recommended. great review.

  3. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Sounds like the kind of contemporary I’d love to add to my wish list for sure.
    Realistic fiction that deals with tough facts is something I enjoy more reading than regular high school drama and queen bees.
    Great review, Giselle!

  4. Beth

    I was literally just looking at this books synopsis and thought it sounding really interesting. Then I came across your review! It definitely sounds dark. I’m glad to hear that you liked it! And that its character driven. I love character driven stories.

  5. Rashika

    So… I’ve never read a book about a school shooting before and given how delicate the issue is, I can already imagine how many emotions would be involved in reading one.

    I love how this story gives the aftermath from the perspective of a family member. The reactions sounds realistic but at the same time it’s so heartbreaking that a girl, who in no way should have been considered guilty, is considered guilty and has to deal with the repercussions of something that her brother did.

    I am going to go add both Silent Alarm and 19 Minutes to my TBR now and hopefully, I’ll actually get around to reading them sooner rather than later!

    Beautiful review, hon <3

  6. Fran

    this one sounds really good. Even though the subject matter is dark I can tell that this is one of those emotional books that you will read and then want everybody else to read. This school shooting here in Connecticut affected me because my husband and his brother grew up in Sandyhook and went to that school and all of their school hood friends now have children in elementary school. It was pretty traumatizing to say the least. Luckily nobody that we know was personally affected but it’s such a small tightknit community and everybody was affected.
    What I like about this book is that the shooter is also the main characters brother. That adds an extra touch to the story.
    Thanks for this review I’m looking forward to reading this book when it comes out.