Silent by Sara Alva
Blurb: Alex’s life as a teenager in South Central L.A. 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.
Review: I thought Sara Alva's Social Skills was one of the best stories I'd read in a long time, but her latest release, Silent, is in an entirely different category. As I was reading this gripping story, I felt intensely disappointed that the gay fiction genre is so small. A story as beautifully written and well-crafted as this deserves mainstream distribution. Though we often see reviews where the reader lauds the book as being a riveting page-turner, I can assure you, it is without hyperbole that I sing this story's praises. In fact, I almost don't know where to begin.
Silent is the emotional story about this incredible foster kid named Alejandro. He prefers to be called Alex, and in the beginning he's facing a dilemma. He's fifteen, and he's outgrown his shoes. His mother will not buy him new ones and his mother's abusive boyfriend Hector hates him. Alex takes matters into his own hands and steals some of Hector's weed, then sells it on the street and uses the money for new shoes. When Hector discovers what Alex has done, he uses a lighter to burn Alex's arm, right after torching the new shoes. The injury is severe, and when a teacher at school discovers it, it sets in motion a chain of events that drastically change Alex's life.
He's taken into protective custody and placed in a foster home. Now, at this point in the story (about 20% into the book) I was ready to hurl my Kindle against the wall. I didn't like the social worker and I hated the foster parents. I couldn't believe how callous and unsympathetic they were to Alex after what he'd been through. Actually, I still sort of feel this way, at least about the foster parents. On the other hand, I think they did care about the boys they fostered and did the best they knew how.
The beauty within that environment wasn't so much the relationship any of those kids had with those foster parents, though. It was the relationship they developed with each other. They became a loving family, perhaps less dysfunctional than many conventional families. And it is at this point that the story really grabbed hold of my heart.
Alex becomes friends with one of his foster "brothers", a boy his age named Sebastian. Seb is mute, and everyone assumes he is mentally handicapped. Oddly enough, Alex bonds with him, and they become close. They become VERY close as Alex begins to discover a Seb that no one else knows exists. Alex learns to communicate with Seb, and he uncovers some secrets within Seb's past that are startling...and unbelievable.
There is so much more to this book than what I've shared in this review. It's an epic story that at times made me laugh. It also infuriated me at points and even made me cry. Silent is a book I really don't want to remain silent about it. It's one of those books that is going to stay with me a long, long time, and it very well may remain one of the best books I've read in my lifetime
"I tried not to think about all the horrible things that could happen to a little boy when no one could hear him scream."
Review by Jeff