Parent reviews for Silent to the Bone

Common Sense says

Absorbing mystery includes child abuse, sexual manipulation.
Based on our expert review

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 23 reviews
Adult Written byyeterintothesky March 6, 2019

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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 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 contains:

Educational Value
Positive Messages
Positive role models
Sexy stuff
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bymckbran January 2, 2011
My 10 year old son and I have read several Konigsburg books and loved them. We were listening to this one on a road trip and I turned it off before it got to graphic .. did not know where it was going. I was completely caught off guard because the audio set recommended it for ages 10 to 14 and we had read other books by this author without mature subject matter. I am now reading your comments (should have read CSM, first) and agree. Will take nothing for granted going forward. We will revisit it in another 3 to 4 years, but NOT appropriate for age 10. Even for one who understands sexuality basics.

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
Positive Messages
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bybookguyy212 November 16, 2010

should not be read boringg

This title contains:

Violence & scariness
Sexy stuff
Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... February 7, 2010
While this book is partially a family story and partially a mystery, the message and the main plot center around the friendship between two 13 (?) year old boys. The book emphasizes the power of love and the necessity of trust in friendship, and shows the way that secrets can tear people apart.

This book has very strong, positive themes (love, friendship, the destructive force of secrets and shame, familial bonds, the process of growing up, and above all, the power of friendship) and I would strongly recommend it for anyone 13 and up.

Parents should know that it does deal with somewhat mature issues at times, but trust me, it is not even close to being half as bad as the majority of the stuff in the media these days, and it deals with them in a mature, non-invasive way that I think is very accessible for young adults.

Yes, a part of this book deals with a kid experiencing sexual feelings for the first time, but that is NOT the main point at all and the book does not treat it like a good thing. In fact, it makes it very, very clear that the adult behaved wrong and the boy was not to blame. In an age where the media focuses on men abusing young girls, it's good to have a book that isn't afraid to address the difficult truth that it can happen the other way around (a woman abusing a young boy.) Also, this part of the book is a very brief part--the vast majority of the book contains no mention of sex, and it is never portrayed as 'cool' or 'fun.'

But, again, that is NOT the point of the book.

I first read the book when I was about eleven, and I didn't even understand what happened in the infamous 'scene,' but I loved the book regardless--my point being, I came away from it with a positive message (the power of love) and not grossed out and/or corrupted by what I'd read. When I was old enough to get what had happened, it only enhanced my understanding of the story. I've re-read that book every year since the first reading (I am now 20) and every time reveals something new, deep, and touching. I've never read a book that better captures the beauty, heartache, fun, confusion, and love that are part of any true friendship. Definitely recommend it to any teenagers looking for a compelling story that captures the confusion of adolescence without resorting to copious amounts of drugs, drinking, sex, etc.

This title contains:

Sexy stuff
Positive Messages
Adult Written bySunsetDarling August 29, 2009

Do not read! You will waste precious hours of your life! Read something like Doctor Zhivago instead.

I had to read this book for school, and I found it dull and slow. Once I'd put it down I dreaded picking it up again. I love to read, but this wasn't enjoyable. I thought the writing was poor and the story unbelievable. I didn't want to spend time reading about two teenage boys struggling with adolescence.
Adult Written bykingslyle December 16, 2008

Not for 6th Graders!

Each year I encourage my children to read books from the school's suggested reading list. I often read the books before my children do so that I can discuss the content with them. Last summer I read Silent to the Bone by E. L. Konigsburg, a selection from the 6th grade list.

I was appalled to find Konigburg’s book to be several grades over my child’s head in terms of its sexual content. It is about a young boy who has an erection and feels so guilty about it that he literally stops talking (read the title again). The episode occurs when the naked, older, unmarried babysitter cozies up to him in the bathroom after bathing. The narrative includes a reference to a “Viagra thing” happening to the boy. The scene takes place after the babysitter has had sex with her biker boyfriend in the adjoining bedroom while the parents aren’t home.

Naturally, I don’t think that this book should be “suggested” for sixth graders. Remember, sixth grade children are 10, 11 and 12 years old.

The sexual content of this book is not what we should be teaching our 10, 11 and 12 year olds, at least not without the consent of the parents. To do so in this example would mean that we would first need to explain to a 10 year old the notion of premarital sex, why the main character in the book feels so guilty about his adolescent erection, and what Viagra is and why it was referenced. In Silent to the Bone, we learn in fiction that premarital sex is acceptable and that normal adolescent events are shameful and cause for terrible guilt.
Adult Written bybmackey55 April 9, 2008

Not for young teens

My 12-year-old daugther was very embarrased by sexual content in this book. The conduct of the adult nanny with a 13-year-old boy is very disturbing and not something for young teens to be reading.
Adult Written byhoopstoad April 9, 2008

Tread carefully

My 12 year old was upset by the distrubing sexual content that is revealed in the last pages. I should have been more wary about the age range given on the book itself, which said ages 10-14; I think ages 14 or up would be better.
Adult Written byfhfjhn April 9, 2008