27 January 2012

Review: The Silent by Rebecca Kenney

“Someone has made threats against my school—against my teachers and my classmates. No one knows who it is, but we have to find out before it’s too late. Before the Silent comes out of hiding.”

The Silentis a short but compelling Young Adult read, centred around Mourning High School, in the small two of Mourning, Vermont, a ‘spiritual Dead Zone’. High school Senior Nikki Altemann is asked to keep her eyes and ears open for anything out of the ordinary after an email is sent to several teachers at her school, threatening to kill the sheeple – those people who act like sheep, with no will of their own. The police fear the threat is from a ‘Silent’, a person who escapes notice by acting normal, when inside they are far from it.

Most of the story is told in the first person, by Nikki, in the form of extracts from her diary. But there are also third person point of view, from characters like the school principal (Principal Rudie) and the detective in charge of the case (Kate Daulton). As the primary narrator, Nikki has plenty of teenage humour and flashes of wisdom beyond her years: “In that moment, I think I got a better picture of what it was like for Christ to live on earth before His death. I have always pictured Him as being sad and solemn most of the time, and now I understand why. It’s because He saw and heard and carried more of other people’s pain than anybody else ever could.” There were also a few examples of how life has changed since I was at High School – students with individual email accounts, and a suggestion that if you don’t have a Bible, you can read it online.

While Mourning is a town with a small population of Christians, those that exist are pleasingly well-adjusted. They don't have all the answers, but do their best to give Godly advice (although one of the minor Christian characters specialises in those Christian platitudes that teenagers and non-Christians loathe with good reason).

Although few teens will ever have to go through all the situations Nikki faced in The Silent, many of them will face some of those events, and even though Nikki's own life is far from perfect, she provides teens with a solid example of life in the real world. While not all will care to read a story of this intensity, many teens will find it relevant and illuminating. I enjoy suspense, and this novel had plenty of it, tightly packed into a well-written short novel. I really enjoyed it, and would like to see more of Nikki (there were several plot points that were not wrapped up, and could well lead into a series).

Now, it may be that The Silentis actually not this good. But bear in mind that the last YA books I read were the Twilight series, and I found Bella to be a most unappealing and self-centred heroine. If you loved Twilight, then I suggest this is not the book for you. But if you loathed the whining Bella as much as I did, then I think you will like and admire Nikki, who grows as a person and as a Christian as she undertakes her clandestine assignment.

Thanks to JourneyForth Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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