Number of Pages: 528
Publisher: FSG Originals
Release Date: October 1, 2012
“Sometime right around now, doctors, nurses, and—most of all—parents begin to notice an epidemic spreading among children. Children who are physically normal in every way except that they do not speak and do not respond to speech; they don’t learn to read, don’t learn to write. Theories spread—maybe it’s related to a popular antidepressant. Maybe these children, without the ability to use or comprehend language, have special skills of their own. Unfolding in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, impostors—everyone touched by the silent phenomenon except, of course, the children themselves—The Silent History is both a bold storytelling experiment and an unexpectedly propulsive reading experience.”
I’ll admit it: I first picked this book up in a bookstore because I loved the cover and spine design. I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but as soon as I read the blurb on the back I knew that I had to read it. Not only was I intrigued by the idea of the story itself, but I also really liked the way it was written in testimonials instead of normal first or third person.
These two aspects of the novel are my favorite things about it. The idea of living in a world where some people lack any knowledge of language whatsoever is incredibly fascinating and, if you think about it long and hard enough, quite scary. How would these people fit in with society, find jobs, communicate with others? How would the government handle such an occurrence? What changes would be made in the world to accommodate these people? And most importantly, what would it be like to have no concept of language at all? I can’t even imagine it, because the only way I can think to describe it is through words. This book does answer some of these questions, but not as many as I would have liked. It lacks a broader view of society and the nation (the United States) as a whole and instead mostly focuses on the lives of several individuals.
This leads me to the second great thing about this book: the varying perspectives. At first it is a bit confusing with all of the different people, but once you get more familiar with their lives it’s easy to keep track of everyone. I really liked the way the authors incorporated characters from numerous different corners of society. They differ in their jobs, beliefs, lifestyles, nationalities, and ultimately their opinions on the silents. They tell their stories with the advantage of hindsight, but their voices nevertheless sound authentic and honest. Their personalities are distinct, so much so that you would easily be able to identify the speaker even if their name wasn’t at the start of each chapter. The only thing I did not like about the way this book as written is that I think it prevented the story from expanding to include a more national and even global view of the situation. At times the reader is given a glimpse of how local governments and organizations are handling the silents, but I would have liked to learn the opinion of the US national government as well as that of other countries. This story is set in the United States, but why aren’t there are silents anywhere else? Or are there? If so, why aren’t they discussed? There were so many perspectives from individuals that a more general view of life during this epidemic of sorts was never really given.
Unfortunately, I really disliked the ending of this book. Throughout the entire novel there are underlying questions just waiting to be answered, but few of them are actually explained. I wanted to know why the kids were being born as silents in the first place and if the problem would ever be solved, but instead the story just abruptly ended and I was left hanging. It does offer some closure concerning certain characters, but then there are a few major ones that seem to be forgotten. What happened to them, and why aren’t they ever addressed again? Also, there’s an excellent plot twist about forty pages from the end of the book that had the potential to make it an amazing story, but the authors never really do anything with it. They introduce it and discuss it for a little while, but they don’t provide any form of real explanation about why it happens or what is going to be done about it. After reading over five hundred pages and waiting with anticipation and excitement for a great ending, it was really disappointing to find that the story just sort of stops.
Overall, despite the unsatisfying ending I did really enjoy reading this novel. This story had great potential to be fantastic, but it ended up being just sort of average in my eyes. I really wanted to love it like I initially thought I would, but the connection just wasn’t there. However, I’m still really glad that I randomly picked this book up the in the bookstore one day, because despite my complaints it is nevertheless a book well worth reading!
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, especially if they like science fiction or dystopian stories.
Have you ever read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!