Review: Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
Published March 10th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile
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. (Goodreads)
I’ve never read a novel centered around the aftermath of a school shooting. This story surprised me in many ways. First of all I received this book from the author. She tweeted if any reviewers wanted a copy. I looked up the synopsis and jumped at the chance. The author personally mailed it out to me and I could not be happier that she did. The book arrived in perfect timing. I was just finishing up my last book, so I immediately started Silent Alarm. It opens with Alys in the library, and her brother doing the unimaginable – walking into a school and killing 15 people and then himself. That alone had my skin crawling. School shootings are a very real thing and sadly there have been several real life news stories in the last few years reflecting this fact. I also work as a substitute teacher so just thinking about this made me cringe.
After the tragic incident the plot pretty much centers around how his actions effected his family, mainly his sister. No major milestones or turning points happen and I was hoping for more of a epiphany from Alys or her parents, but really she is just sad and has a million questions. She questions what could have made her brother do such a thing and sadly we never do find out why, but is that really important? I am unsure if it is. The characters are no better developed than the plot. I felt surface level character development for a story of such magnitude was a disgrace. It wasn’t all bad though. When Riley was introduced (her brother’s best friend) and a semi-relationship began I felt relieved that there was going to be a break in the woe is me from Alys. However, in the end although they went to prom and then escaped to a hotel for the night and they seemed like what could have been a really cute couple it never turned out that way. After reading the last few pages and closing the chapter on this one I felt it was a decent attempt at such a high profile conflict of our time. It wasn’t completely satisfying, but it wasn’t a total disappoint either. There were definitely some moments of pure brilliance from Banash.
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.