Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash Review

"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."

Okay, here we go again. Silent Alarm is a book imagining the sufferings of a small town that has suffered through a terrible school shooting. Oh, and Alys (the narrator and our heroine) just happens to be the shooter's sister. It's an absolute disaster for her and her family, and Alys is basically alienated and seen as a suspicious character. Everyone thinks that she is going to snap just like her brother has, and they blame her in the place of him. Obviously, school shootings isn't a very easy topic to read about, and we could start pratting on a bunch of actions we should take to prevent these very situations and I'm thankful that the author doesn't go into politics, just the emotions and the feelings and the backlash. 

(We all know how crazy politics is. Slow, distilled inaction. The Congressional secret to eternal youth. At least, that's according to Stephen Colbert.) 

The plot is a bit non-action. More feelings, less "running around and saving the world." Alys dodges her neighbors and former friends as she is always known as "that shooter's sister." Her family is breaking apart, and Alys is going crazy. But she finds refuge in Luke's friend, who is also being forced as an outsider. (Remember? "Shooter's best friend.") 

I must point out the writing. It's very poetic, and the language is exactly like music. (It actually isn't that surprising when you consider that Alys is a musician who wants to go to a very prestigious music program.) 

Alys herself, as said before, is going crazy. She is seeing things, and she is a slightly unreliable narrator. The question of why her brother decided to shoot people in his own school plagues her very much, and no matter which way she looks, she can't seem to obtain an answer. (And the answer isn't very obvious, and I kind of disagree with the author, but that's not the point here.) 

The ending is a bit anticlimactic, and I find myself wishing the ending ends a bit differently. But oh, well. It goes where it goes. At least, Alys gets a bittersweet happy ending. For now. 

Overall, Silent Alarm is definitely not for those who really don't want to be reminded of school shootings (or any kind of shootings, in fact). But it is a definitely curious story with a very calm yet also intensive plot and pretty writing. 

Rating: Three out of Five

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