Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.
It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.
I almost stopped reviewing coming of age YA books not because I stopped enjoying the subgenre, but because at some point I started to feel that my reviews had too much similar wording. I understand that to some degree it is inevitable because teenagers searching and finding their identity, realizing who they are, what they want from life is what these books are about (to me anyway), however I felt that I needed to take a break from those reviews.
I could not however pass up the chance to review this book, because I really liked the first book by this author (I think it was her first, I am not absolutely sure) which I reviewed here. I have to say that I liked this one much better and not just because I thought that her writing seemed more mature in this book. I think one of the reasons why I loved this book so much is because in a sense it rebels against constraints of the trope writing. As much as I liked ” Social skills” , the first thought which comes to my mind when I think about this book is “oh, this is about nerd and jock” and then I start thinking about the wonderful characters that story has. “Silent” is of course a “coming of age YA” and firmly belongs in this genre, but I am not sure that the author used any specific trope in this one. I thought she was just writing about one amazing teenager who matured so much throughout the book and another teenager who he fell in love with, I thought she put them in the settings which were sadly too recognizable to me and gave us hope that the person can overcome almost anything that life will throw at them.
Alex was such a great character – yes bad things happen to him and I wanted to strangle certain people in his life when I was reading, but I thought the way he dealt with life’s troubles was different from so many teenagers that I have read about before. I do not mean that his way was necessary better, especially since it was clear that for all his supposed self reliance and attempt to look at the world in the defiant way he was a fifteen year old who really needed people in his life who cared for him, but as a character in the book he was very interesting and refreshing to me. Alex’s voice was engaging and made me want to finish this book without putting the book down even once.
As I said previously what I really appreciated in the book was Alex’ character arc. I wish every character would grew up and matured by the end of the book in such believable way that Alex did. I mean, he finds love, yes, but he also realizes early enough in the book that the world does not revolve around him and even though he endured much during his life, a lot of kids which he got to know also had a lot of pain to overcome and I liked how his empathy got stronger throughout the story. Also closer to the end of the book Alex makes an important decision to act on behalf of somebody else’s and I have to tell you, I am not sure if I had a strength to do that.
“Hey.” She tapped my hand with her pencil. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to attack you. And it’s not just you. Brandon wants to go back, too.”
I looked over and saw the fear in her eyes and realized once again that the world didn’t revolve around me.
“I thought he said his mom was gonna go to rehab so she’d be able to take care of him.”
“Yeah.” Latoni’s voice sharpened with sarcasm. “Don’t suppose he mentioned it’d be her fourth try.”
“Oh.” I rested my head in my hand, propping myself up with an elbow. “No, he didn’t. Actually, I don’t really know much about anyone in the house.”
“Too busy being all sorry for yourself,” she responded”.
As an aside of the sorts, I really liked that this story does not portray foster care as something evil, because I cannot tell you how much I am tired about reading in many stories that as a part of the character’s horrible childhood he was going between many foster homes where foster parents were so horrible that they were evil pretty much. No, foster care is not a perfect arrangement, of course good family is always better, but I feel that some people should never have become parents because of what horrors they did to their kids and some kids sadly need a place to stay because of that and people who may care. Foster parents in this book are not perfect at all, but they absolutely tried and social workers were not perfect either but they tried as well. In that sense this book was a breath of fresh air – I do not have any personal connection to foster care or social worker by the way, just a topic I happen to feel strongly about. I am getting off my soap box now.
While in foster care Alex meets a boy named Seb (Sebastian) who does not talk and kids call him “retarded”. Seb does not do anything to disabuse them of the idea that he has mental problems, but he and Alex eventually become friends. I really think that telling you anything more about the plot of the story will be going in the spoilerish territory, so I want to discuss the main characters some more.
Since Alex is the narrator of the story we see Seb through his eyes and I was actually debating with myself as to how well we get to know Seb without getting his thoughts. Initially I was thinking that the writer did not succeed quite well in that area and that we really needed to be in Seb’s head because he could not talk and we could not get to know him as a person. But then I started to wonder because the more story progressed, the better mental picture of who Seb was emerged in my mind. So I was wondering that maybe this was deliberate – the more Alex got to know Seb, the better readers get to know him through Alex’s eyes and more importantly *with* Alex.
The love story between these two was so powerful and strong that I had absolutely no problem believing that two sixteen year olds will stay together all their life – this does not always happen in YA books and I do not think this should always happen in YA books. I think teenagers have lots of time to figure out who will be their once and forever love and if this will happen outside of the pages of the book I am personally completely okay with that, but in this book their love just rang so true to me that when Seb says (does not mean that I am revealing a spoiler that he is talking by the end of the book necessarily. You have to read and find out ;)) “You are my family” I just completely bought it.
I wanted to scream “I told you so!” and jump up and down and point with those game-show-host arms used to unveil a grand prize… but then I remembered that this moment wasn’t supposed to be about me.
The secondary characters in this book were all amazing – kids in the foster home, adults around Alex, they all struggle, try to be happy, they are all diverse characters – in fact I have not seen such diverse cast in a book for quite some time, another reason why reading this book was such a pleasure.