Silent Alarm is unlike any other book that I’ve ever read. First of all, Banash deserves major credit for undertaking the difficult project of telling the story from the perspective of the shooter’s sister. Alys was both a bystander and a victim, which added depth to her otherwise simple character. She was a violin prodigy, which I found to be cliched, but her talent helped underline Luke’s jealousy. As for Luke, I was satisfied with his character development. To keep the reader intrigued, Banash avoided making him a stereotypical monster, but she didn't make him a martyr, either. In doing so, the reader is able to see him not as an evil robot, but as a human whose inability to deal with his psychological issues led him to commit an atrocity.
Supporting characters, while few, provide a strong backbone to the story. Though the novel is told in first person, the insight of characters like Riley, Luke’s best friend; Grace, the violin tutor; and all the journalists adds dimension. They remind us of how we act when school shootings happen, and they gently show us that maybe parents and siblings of the shooter shouldn’t be judged as harshly as they often are. As for the flow of the book, it was cohesive and sharp. Banash makes a wonderful use of parentheses and italics to illustrate Alys’s confused mind.
The reason this book didn’t get five stars from me is partly because of the first line, “Life changes in a second.” Maybe it’s just me, but there are way too many “life” metaphors out there. I prefer a subtle comparison rather than one plopped immediately on the page. The last three pages were also a bit of a disappointment. While it contained the required elements of hope and forgiveness, it seemed to drag on thanks to a lack of action or dialogue. Besides those details, Silent Alarm is definitely a book to check out or keep on your home shelf. Mature teens and fans of Laurie Halse Anderson will enjoy this gritty, realistic drama.