Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review: The Silent Boy – Lois Lowry


The Silent Boy – Lois Lowry


Precocious Katy Thatcher comes to realize what a gentle, silent boy did for his family. He meant to help, not harm. It didn’t turn out that way.


Review: One of the reasons that I hated reading as a child was because the books that I had access to were cutesy. They didn’t deal with real-life issues. I think I would have loved this book when I was a preteen. It’s definitely a mature and realistic middlegrade novel.

The Silent Boy is a historical fiction story set in the early 1900s. Nine-year-old Katy befriends a teenager, Jacob, who is unable to speak, make eye contact, or attend school. Everyone assumes that Jacob is stupid, but Katy knows that he’s just different. One night, something goes horribly wrong, and Jacob gets the blame. Only Katy understands that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone. He was just trying to help.

This book provides an unflinching look at how mentally disabled people used to be treated. Jacob probably has autism, but nobody knows that. The characters aren’t sure how to react to him and his unusual behaviors. I love that Katy tries so hard to empathize with Jacob. She treats him like a friend and wants to know what is going on inside his head.

I also really like the scenes of Katy with her family. I know that big happy families are fashionable in YA/MG literature right now, but I think the “happy family” scenes in books often feel forced and unrealistic. Katy’s relationships with her parents and the hired staff in her house are very natural. I especially like Katy’s strong bond with her father. He encourages her to be kind to Jacob and helps her understand his odd behaviors.

My biggest criticism of this book is its pacing. It’s extremely slow. Some young readers would probably get bored with it. All of the action happens in the last 20 pages. I wish the ending had happened much earlier and we got to see more of the aftermath.

This book does not have a happy ending because mentally disabled people were not treated well during this period of history, but I think this would be a great book for a parent and mature child to read together. It would provide a lot of topics for discussion.




10 comments:

  1. I know what you mean when you say it would be better for a preteen. I have that feel about most of Lois Lowry's books. I read The Giver and Gathering Blue by her when I was 12 and loved them, but at 16 I haven't been getting into her books of late. It was still interesting to learn about this historical one. Good review x

    My recent post; http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/2015/09/life-update-paris-trip-and-summer-is.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was hard to suggest a target audience for this book. Teens might find it juvenile, and young kids might not like the slow beginning and intense ending.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  2. Wow! This is something I would love for my son to read. He has family with mental illness on his father side so it would be a good insight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I haven’t found many kid’s books that deal with mental problems in a historical setting. Probably because it’s a really depressing subject. This book is realistic, but I don’t think it will completely terrify its young readers. It doesn’t have a happy ending, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  3. I'm not really a historical fiction fan, actually I avoid them unless they're really compelling. While this one sounds super interesting because I'm fascinated by mental illness, the talk of slow pacing--and the fact the characters seem too young, I think I'll pass. Nice review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pacing is very slow, but the book is only about 200 pages, so it doesn’t take long to get through.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  4. I haven't heard about this book before now, but I might give it a try! Sounds like a boy I would enjoy!

    ReplyDelete

I do a happy dance every time I get a comment. (You should be grateful that you’re not around to witness this dance. It’s truly horrifying.) Leave a link to your blog so I can visit you.