(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/27815.html#cutid2)Why I Read It:
Waayyy back in grade 11(5-6 years ago), I read Lowry's The Giver and fell absolutely in LOVE with it. Since then, I've only read her other Newberry Award winner Number the Stars (which I also enjoyed, but not with the fervor that I loved The Giver). Since then, I have been interested in reading more of her work, but I was convinced that nothing would ever impress me as much as The Giver so I didn't really go seeking it out. Jump to this past summer; I went to visit a friend in Ottawa and before she offered to lend me The Silent Boy, telling me it was one of her favorite books by Lowry. I needed a back-up plan for reading material for my ride home, and since it was Lowry, I accepted. I ended up having enough books to last me most of my trip home, so I didn't read it then. Jump to the beginning - mid November: I'm swamped with homework and essays and all kinds of other stuff and I wanted to read short stuff. This fit the bill perfectly, billing in at just over 200 pages.
All right, so our story is told from a first-person POV from an old lady named Katy Thatcher. She starts off the story by claiming that she's told her grandchildren all kinds of stories but never this one -- this one is too sad and too real and she doesn't think they're quite ready for it yet. But she's going to tell us. So begins her story about The Silent Boy.
Having the story told to us from AFTER they've happened was effective in that you know Something Bad is going to happen. On the flip side though, you are constantly waiting for the Thing, and The Silent Boy takes its sweet time in getting to that point. For the first 9/10 of this novel it feels like we're meandering and watching young Katy's privileged life. It's not that bad or anything, but it honestly all felt pretty aimless and I honestly didn't see where the plot was going, or what the Bad Thing was going to be. I knew it was obviously going to involve Jacob (the titular character -- he's a mute who's affected by some kind of mild mental disorder and loves animals) but I wasn't sure HOW, though I was positive it would be because of his condition.
Once at the end of the novel however, and the Thing happens, almost everything else that came before it makes perfect sense, and all kinds of little pieces of the puzzle that seemed trivial when they were presented suddenly come together to paint a very sad picture. It was definitely a punch to the gut and because I didn't see it coming it made it feel all the more gut-wrenching. So the story? Really good. It felt slow despite its length, but I realized by the end that it was deliberate and Lowry had actually supplied me with everything I needed to piece the story and the outcome together -- the pieces were just so well and subtly placed that I missed them, which to me indicates a job well done, especially with this kind of story.
I unfortunately didn't feel so impressed about anything else though. I feel bad phrasing it that way because nothing was BAD, I just wasn't blown away. The writing was fine and seemed to adequately reflect the mind of someone Katy's age, but I found a bit of a discrepancy when it came to the narration. It's supposed to be Katy's older self telling us the story decades after the events took place, yet when reading from young Katy's perspective it's like you're in the mind of a 7-9 year old (I forget how many years the novel spans, but it was somewhere around there I think). But then sometimes, it would go from this 7-9 perspective and say something like "And that was the last time we were all happy together" like we've jumped back into 90+ year old Katy's mind. There needed to be a clearer indication of when we were in Young Katy's mind and Old Katy's mind. I guess you could argue that that's how Katy would tell the story regardless -- she tells it to us like she might've when she was younger -- but I don't know.. it felt off to me.
As for the characters, I wish I could have felt a little more attached to them. Again, it's not that anything was BAD, but I didn't fall in love with anyone. Katy was cute and could be a brat, but just as much as was normal for someone her age, her parents were good people (especially liked the relationship between Katy and her father) and I liked the poorer girl who worked as a maid for them (can't remember her name); she was very sweet and likable and was probably my favorite of the bunch. I do also wish I could have become more attached to Jacob, but I found there wasn't enough of him throughout the novel to really cement any kind of connection with him. I did however get a touch of the fuzzy wuzzies when he gave Katy the little kitten as a sign of friendship -- there were some little moments like that between them that I really liked and really wish there could have been more of.Final Judgment:
So, The Giver still remains victor in regards to being my favorite Lois Lowry novel (and honestly one of my favorite books ever), but this book is still worth checking out. Despite having a slow-moving story that appears aimless, it drops hints and clues about the Big Reveal at the end of the story seamlessly into the plot which makes said Reveal even more shocking. And it really is a tragic and sad ending, so if you want something uplifting, you might want to look elsewhere. While I liked the story (especially the ending), I found the novel a bit lacking in other areas: I was a little confused about the narrative voice and I wasn't as attached to the characters as I might've had liked (though there were some pretty touching moments in this book, especially between Katy and her dad, and Katy and Jacob).