Parents' Guide to

Silent to the Bone

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Absorbing mystery includes child abuse, sexual manipulation.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 7 parent reviews

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
1 person found this helpful.
age 16+

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (7):
Kids say (19):

The engrossing nature of this story can't be denied. It follows the formula of a classic mystery, with red herrings, a climactic revelation, and detective Connor putting the pieces together. Readers will admire Connor's dedication to his friend, and be glad when justice -- and friendship -- prevail.

Unfortunately, none of the key elements -- the characters, the emotions, the psychology -- ring true. E. L. Konigsburg's child characters have always been precociously gifted, but in recent novels, such as The View From Saturday, she has strayed perilously close to making them indistinguishable from very clever adults, and here she goes over the line. Neither Connor (who tells the story) nor Bran are credible young teens; they don't talk -- or, more importantly, think -- like kids at all. And the adults in the story, save Margaret, are just detestable. Readers may also not be convinced by the connection between the nanny's sexual manipulation of Bran and his silence (and be troubled that it is never really called abuse). Though the identity of the culprit will surprise no one, readers might be unsatisfied by the punishment given to the person who actually abused Nikki.

Book Details

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