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SILENT TO THE BONE by E.L. Konigsburg


by E.L. Konigsburg

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-83601-5
Publisher: Atheneum

The small New York town in which Konigsburg offered a View From Saturday (1996, Newbery Medal) is again the setting for a series of rich and subtle studies in friendship and family. It’s framed as a whodunit. Someone dropped baby Nikki, who now lies in the hospital in critical condition. From what Vivian, her au pair, says on the 911 tape and in a later deposition, it was Nikki’s teenaged half-brother Branwell—who can’t defend himself because he’s retreated into utter, seemingly unresponsive silence. Fortunately, Branwell has a stubborn, sharply observant friend in Connor, the narrator, who finds a way to communicate using homemade flash cards and eye blinks, then, at Branwell’s unspoken direction, embarks on a series of fact-finding expeditions. The pieces fall neatly into place as Connor, with his older half-sister Margaret, analyzes new information and interviews potential suspects, from Vivian, as smarmy a minx as ever was, to a pizza deliverer she has been seeing on the sly—who, conveniently, turns out to be a witness requiring little persuasion to tell all. The mystery of Branwell’s mutism remains, however, and Konigsburg handles that with more expertise, revealing how his silence after the incident had roots in his silence about certain earlier events. In the end, Nikki and Branwell make full recoveries and justice catches up with the true culprit. What starts out as an intriguing plot turns predictable, but Konigsburg’s characters and the textures of their relationships are fascinating and worth every minute spent with them. (Fiction. 11-13)