The Silenced by James Devita

silenced.jpgThis is a giant novel, but actually a fast read (in part because the story is quick and compelling, and in part because they printed it with humongous margins.) This new YA novel falls into the category of dystopian novel, a genre I like (at least in YA lit). As a consequence of having read a bunch of these novels I couldn’t help but compare The Silenced to many other books. Or at least, to be reminded of other similar novels.

Marena lives in a world where the ZTs, or Zero Tolerance party, rules everything. There is to be no deviation, no differences, no original thought. In fact, writing implements and paper are even banned. Only her father is alive because her mother was a “traitor” and “neutralized”, along with thousands of others during the Millennium War. Although details are sketchy, it’s clear that the ZTs took over the U.S. and did a mass eradication of those who dared speak out against them. Now, Marena and thousands of others like her live in community with strict security and attend school for the sole purpose of being “readapted” and made to conform to the ZT way. It’s a chilling world and you can’t help but wonder how anyone in it bears to continue being alive. There is no art or music, nothing to set individuals apart from one another and certainly no civil or individual liberties. Marena knows that this isn’t right and that her mother died trying to stand up to this horrible regime and so she decides to begin her own resistance, called the “white rose.”

As a dystopian novel it’s fairly standard. Once you’ve read one you can expect that at some point there will be double crossing, that Marena will build up her resistance, there will be a frightening moment of being caught, and there will be lots of incidents of wondering who can really be trusted. And yet, I still really liked this and found it exciting and thought provoking.

Interestingly, when I read it I thought of all the futuristic dystopian novels I’ve read: The Hermit Thrush Sings, The Cure, The Giver, etc. But when I read the author’s note at the end I learned that he was basing this novel on the Nazi movement (especially the youth recruitment) and the resistance efforts of Sophie Scholl. This, and the fact that he uses words and phrases that have recently entered our own language, such as “redaptation”, make this novel much less futuristic sci-fi world and much more horrifying realistic possibility if we don’t diligently fight for free speech and civil liberties. The mockeries made of trials were especially chilling.

This book will hopefully find its way into classroom discussions. There was so much to think about in it, plus it’s a great tie-in to the Nazi regime. This was a very powerful book, as well as a great story.

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