Silent to the Bone

Book review by Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Silent to the Bone Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 12+

Absorbing mystery includes child abuse, sexual manipulation.

Parents say

age 12+

Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 11+

Based on 23 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A Lot or a Little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Community Reviews

age 16+

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 13+

Good novel with important topics, but proceed with caution and communication

SPOILERS AHEAD: I first read this book when I was in middle school, at about the age I am recommending. This story is about Branwell, a 13 year old boy whose infant half-sister, Nikki, is in a coma after a suspicious injury for which he's been blamed. He is at a juvenile facility while the investigation is underway and Nikki recovers in the hospital. Branwell (or Bran) is unable to speak due to the trauma, and no one seems to believe him or want to help except his best friend, Connor. Connor figures out he can communicate with Bran using notecards, and slowly he uncovers the story of Bran's difficulties adjusting to his dad's new marriage, the new baby, and most of all, the new nanny, Vivian. Over time, it's revealed that Vivian is a terrible babysitter. She smokes indoors, including in the same room as baby Nikki, brings her boyfriend to the house to have sex even with both children home, and doesn't change Nikki enough. She also notices that Bran is sexually attracted to her (which is not uncommon for 13 year old boys), which is something he doesn't understand, as he's never had these feelings before. She encourages this and makes inappropriate advances, then blackmails him into not telling his parents about her mistreating him and Nikki by making him believe he is in the wrong. Overall, this is a well-written story that covers a lot of important topics, including family dynamics, friendship, blended families, child abuse/neglect, sexual abuse/molestation, why it's important to tell the truth, and speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves. I will say that some 13 year olds might have some difficulty with the serious subject matter, and some younger adolescents might be more mature and able to handle it. I am not a parent right now, but as someone who both remembers being this age and has grown up enough to be more thoughtful about these things, I think the most important thing to keep in mind with this book (and with any book, movie, show, etc dealing with difficult topics) is to encourage open communication with your child. Your child might feel embarrassed, confused, or have questions about some of the subject matter and it's important they know you are there to listen.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex

Book Details

Our Editors Recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate