*Taken from Goodreads*
Two months before Troye Saavedra’s senior year of high school, his father’s drinking problem skyrockets. When Troye’s parents make an impulsive move to Georgia in order to “help” him finish high school on a positive note, he is forced to leave behind everything he knows. Things couldn’t get worse for Troye. That is, until he meets three enigmatic teenagers: Adelaide, an independent violinist with radical ideas; Zaidan, fiercely loyal and always funny; and Arabella, a girl who harbors secret struggles. Together, the four friends try to pick up the jagged pieces of their lives without getting hurt themselves. An insightful tale of perseverance, Silence Interrupted is a young adult novel about the beauty and peril of traversing the world as a teenager.
This had all the potential to be a poignant showcase of teenage existence and development (if there is such a thing), but fell flat upon impact. That being said, the fact that this is a 216-ish page book written by a 16 year old is impressive. Young voices are always wonderful to see, as it gives readers a chance to watch their craft grow and strengthen as they produce more and more work.
However, I’m a picky reader and a writing tutor, so I’m going to get a little technical. Shaikh has an interesting cast; Troye, Zaidan, Adelaide, Arabella are all unique from one another with defined voices and personalities. However, they felt entirely unrealistic. None of their speech sounded real. For example there were lines of dialogue like “”Greetings!” the girl says, almost maniacally.”, “Or Arabella if you wish, bit I don’t prefer it. It’s quite lengthy.”, and “Is silence our adversary?” I was constantly raising an eyebrow at the speech between the characters. It sounded like some kind of highly scripted Disney channel movie.
Another issue I found was in the writing itself. Shaikh tells more than she shows, overusing adverbs and simple sentences. The characters would say something ironically, then ask tentatively, or mutter sarcastically. All of the emotion shown by the characters is told to the reader, leaving no room for growth between them and the characters. This telling and not showing also resulted in me feeling as if nothing were really happening. There was very little suspense in this novel, and there seemed to be no action and yet several things occurring all at once, leaving me confused at times. Among the things that happened Shaikh touched on some very important issues such as self-harm, abusive parents, and to some degree mental illness. These are all important issues to be bringing up in YA. I will say that I am impressed at the author’s handling of these issues, particularly self harm and Arabella’s struggle with cutting as well as her mother.
Another aspect I found this story lacking was a sense of time and setting. Not much is described, leaving a reader blank for the much of the book. There is some attentive description, such as in Adelaide’s home or Troye’s white room. However, the great majority of this book is a blank canvas that was never filled. This did nothing to aide with the passing of time. At several points there would be odd paragraph breaks that would state that a few weeks had passed, or that a new event was occurring, which would be all the warning received that the setting and time was changing. I honestly cannot tell you the amount of time covered in this book; my rough estimate would be anywhere from 6 months to a year, possibly two, but your guess would be as good as mine.
As interested as I am in seeing young voices like Sheikh’s in YA I feel that her novel is deeply flawed. However, that does not mean that she will not deliver something far more powerful in the future. Time is certainly on her side.