Dana reviews Silent by Sara Alva (Self published October 27, 2013, 383 pages, Cover art by Dani Alexander)
This week is Award Winning Books week at Rainbow Gold Reviews. I had previously won a paperback copy of Silent by Sara Alva. I hadn’t read it yet, and when I saw it on the list of Rainbow Award winners, I found the perfect reason to put down my kindle and read an actual paperback. I am so glad I did.
Blurb: 2014 Rainbow Award Winner: Best Gay & Lesbian Young Adult Novel
Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central LA is far from perfect, but it’s his life, and he knows how to live it. He knows what role to play and what things to keep to himself. He’s got it all under control, until one lousy pair of shoes kicks him out of his world and lands him in a foster care group home.
Surrounded by strangers and trapped in a life where he could never belong, Alex turns to the only person lower on the social ladder than he is: a “special” mute boy. In Sebastian, Alex finds a safe place to store his secrets—those that sent him to foster care, and the deeper one that sets him apart from the other teenagers he knows. But Sebastian has secrets of his own, and when tragedy rips the two boys apart, Alex will stop at nothing to find the answers—even if it means dragging them both through a past full of wounds best left buried.
It might just be worth it, for the slim chance at love.
I’ll start by saying that I love the cover of this book. The graffiti style is not unlike something you would see in the neighborhood where Alex grew up. At first Alex seems tough but young. He talks a big game, but he has to in the bad part of town he lives in. He dabbles in selling drugs, hangs out with friends, and having sex with high school girls is something he feels pressured to do. Under this facade, is the Alex that is trying desperately to stay out of a gang, wants his mom’s attention and love, and is also attracted to other boys/men.
The dialogue in the beginning of this books is rough, but appropriate for who Alex and his friends are. I can’t condone the way he goes about getting himself a pair of new shoes, but can also feel for his desperate need for ones that fit him. His actions lead to a fight with his stepfather and when the school sees the familiar signs of abuse they step in and Alex is put into a group home where he meets Sebastian.
Sebastian was born with a condition and is unable to speak. Most everyone at the group home seems to ignore him. Alex finds himself talking to Sebastian thinking he can’t really understand him and knowing he won’t be able to repeat Alex’s secrets. We begin to see a more emotional side to Alex and an awakening happening in Sebastian. It just goes to show the way we speak to people and the way we treat them can have such an affect on who they become. Everyone believed Sebastian incapable of intelligence because of his muteness. The two boys end up finding something in each other that they need. For Alex, it’s someone who will listen and not judge and for Sebastian it is someone who will talk to him like a real person.
When the house they are both staying in has a fire, they are separated for a bit, but Alex fights to see Sebastian and sees him withdrawing into himself again. From that moment Alex feels he needs to take charge. It’s a new Alex that we see as the boys take to the streets. They visit Alex’s sister who is selling her body to provide a life for her daughter. He has the maturity to see that the life he and his sister have chosen isn’t going to get them far and warns his niece in a touching moment. There is a brief moment where their experiences visiting the pier and hiding out in a building at night seem like everything will be okay for Alex and Sebastian. Eventually, their luck runs out and Alex learns to put the welfare of others before himself. He really comes a long way than the punk kid he was trying to be in the beginning of the story.
I really love Alex and Sebastian together as a couple. There is a lot of soul searching on Alex’s part to make sure he isn’t taking advantage of Sebastian and the way that Sebastian thrives with Alex’s care is amazing. I think the ending of this book was really good, but with both boys being young I would love a follow up story or book on them. I’d love to see what changes would happen with more time together. I’d definitely recommend this story. It might not be a typical coming of age story, but it moved me with it’s tenderness and the characters experienced so much growth.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Sara Alva is a former small-town girl currently living in big-city LA with a husband, two cats, and an avocado tree. She recently discovered— after a year in her house— that she also has a fig tree in her backyard, which might mean she needs to get out more. But sometimes the stories waiting to be told demand more attention, and when she puts fingers to keyboard, it’s usually to write about journeys of self-discovery, heartache, personal growth, friendship and love. When she isn’t writing, she’s teaching or dancing.