Silent to the Bone

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Silent to the Bone Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Absorbing mystery includes child abuse, sexual manipulation.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 23 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Parents and teachers can use this book to discuss topics ranging from the mystery to silent communication. Scholastic has a lesson plan that's worth checking out.

Positive Messages

All the hallmarks of a classic mystery story surrounding an infant in a coma. Ultimately justice -- and friendship! -- prevail.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Connor is a loyal friend, determined to discover the truth.


An infant is abused and injured. Bran is left out of his father's new life, then is falsely accused of harming his infant half-sister.


Bran has a crush on the adult au pair, who tricks him into helping her with her bath. When he gets an erection, she scolds him, and he begins doing "whatever she wanted me to do" to keep her silence -- including baby care, or not telling about finding her with her boyfriend in her room. Connor also is quite taken with Vivian.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Vivian, adult au pair, smokes cigarettes. Adults drink wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book includes all the hallmarks of a classic mystery story surrounding an infant in a coma. Connor is a loyal friend, determined to discover the truth, and ultimately justice -- and friendship! -- prevail. But mature details make this a better choice for tweens and up: the plot deals with a baby being shaken and injured, and there's an undercurrent of sexual tension in the book between two 13-year-old boys and an adult au pair.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byyeterintothesky March 6, 2019
Adult Written byEmmi1234 September 4, 2018

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 in... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byKate088 June 15, 2018

Very Explicit!

This book is by a great author, but is walking a fine line between truthful and just wrong. This is not for children, especially if they are sheltered like me.... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byluzl October 20, 2015

Silent To The Bone

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
“Silent to the bone” is a book written by E.L. Konigsburg. “Silent t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Here are the facts: Branwell Zamborska's baby half-sister, Nikki, has had a head injury and is in a coma. No one knows whether she will survive. Vivian, the Zamborska's British au pair, has given a deposition that Bran, after showing an unhealthy interest in changing Nikki's diapers, dropped her. Bran has lapsed into silence, unable to speak, and has been placed in an institution while prosecutors ready a case against him. Only his best friend, Connor, believes in him. Connor visits Bran every day and develops a way to communicate with him using flash cards. But instead of telling Connor what happened, Bran uses the cards to send him on a series of errands designed to help him piece together the whole story.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mature material in books for kids and teens. This book features both a badly injured baby and an au pair, who is inappropriately sexual toward a young teen. What age is the book best for?  Did the material here surprise you?

  • Have you read other E.L Konigsburg books? Do you see any similarities between this book and her other works, like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? How are her protagonists similar?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

Top advice and articles

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

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate