I hadn’t heard anything about Silenced, but when Piccadilly Press mentioned on twitter about reviewing a YA thriller, I was really intrigued and was very happy when a review copy landed in my porch. Silenced is a British contemporary YA, telling the story of Chris after his best friend, Dec, dies suddenly in a car accident and Chris loses the ability to speak. He is unable to bring himself to think of the night his best friend died and carries a secret with him.
This book explored grief really then and I thought the scene where an oblivious Chris attends assembly, only to hear about the death of his close friend, was realistic and really well written. In real life, unfortunately, this is not a rarity and I remember myself the assemblies after students died suddenly and tragically when I was school. The utter surprise and shock in that scene in particular was visceral and emotional.
Packham writes Chris’ voice really well and the style is very assured and realistic. I felt at times like Chris acted younger than his age though, however as this is set after a traumatic incident and I know I would be a wreck in that instant, that may explain it.
After Dec’s death, Chris is pulled between two people: Will and Ariel. Ariel is Dec’s girlfriend, someone Chris didn’t even know Dec was dating, and lives with her hippie mother and is self-sufficient. Will, meanwhile, is the new enigmatic boy in school and full with confidence. This conflict comprises a central part of the novel.
Will was a really interesting secondary character. From the outset, it was apparent to me that there was a lot more to his character and he was not who he claimed to be. Will was obviously, to me, troubled himself, but he was also highly manipulative to Chris and while I knew Ariel would grate on him, I hoped he would go to her rather than Will.
Packham describes grief and the loss of a best friend beautifully and truthfully. Chris felt like a real person and I was desperate for him to admit to himself whatever it was that made him lose his voice.
I thought that the actual twist would be more severe than it was, but on reflection, I believe it was the most true to life twist. The climax of the novel was tense and poignant as the secret was revealed and Chris’ grief became even more visible.
Overall, I think this was an accomplished novel and beautifully depicted the grief process, and teenagers’ approach to death and tragedy. I personally think this novel would be ideal for 12-15 year old readers more than the older end of YA, however I enjoyed it a lot myself and think older teens would take something from it too. This is a solid, well-written addition to UKYA. Silenced is a fairly quick read but one worth reading.
I received a free copy for review from Piccadilly Press and am very grateful for the opportunity. I had never heard of Simon Packham before this and will definitely be keeping an eye out for his previous and forthcoming novels in the future. Silenced is available to buy now.