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SILENT ALARM by Jennifer Banash


by Jennifer Banash

Pub Date: March 10th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-25789-6
Publisher: Putnam

Unassuming violinist Alys finds her life tragically altered when her older brother Luke kills 15 people, including himself, in a school shooting.

The book opens with the shooting itself, told in tense, lyrical and viscerally felt detail. Recognizing Alys huddled under a table, Luke chillingly, incongruously pauses his rampage to tell her "Hey." Luke shoots the girl hiding next to Alys, and later, when Alys brushes her hair, she finds "tiny pieces of bone matted in the long strands." After the shooting, both Alys' best friend, Delilah, and her boyfriend, Ben, whose sister was one of Luke's victims, distance themselves from Alys. Her father drinks heavily, and her parents fight while reporters wait outside their home. Two storytelling devices successfully evoke Alys' pain and bewilderment in the shooting's aftermath. Thoughts that cannot yet be spoken aloud appear in italicized parentheticals set off by line breaks: "The Luke I thought I knew wasn't / (a killer)." Additionally, Luke and some of his victims appear as visions and speak to Alys, giving voice to the absent Luke and to Alys' own grief. The near uniformity with which Alys is shunned after the incident, however, seems oversimplified, and the hostility of Ben's mother in particular is almost a caricature.

Overall, a moving, insightful treatment of a difficult and timely topic.

(Fiction. 14-18)