A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Reviews some contemporary antiracist movements, refers to real-world racist events and stories. Explains some terms like, "model minority myth" and "white privilege."
Hiding from racism and letting it keep you silent is what it wants. Stand up and resist racist beliefs, people, and institutions.
Positive Role Models
Maybelline Chen is smart and emotionally intelligent. She balances the wishes and hopes of her parents with her own agenda, and she does so admirably. May's friends are also positive, supportive, and antiracist. Ms. Daniels is also a strong role model and good teacher.
All the main characters are people of color. May Chen is Taiwanese American and her friends are Asian, Black, Latino, White, biracial, and multiracial. There are some LGBTQ+ characters.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
An older brother's suicide (while still in high school) is central to the story. The suicide is brutal, as the brother is hit by a train. Lots of references to his death and the trauma and pain of losing a family member and friend. Many instances of racism shape the story also, and many of these instances include moments of Asian hate and stereotypes about Asian people and Asian American people. Other references to gang violence, shootings, real-world Asian hate incidents, and slurs. At a party, some kids stop what they think is a sexual assault about to happen.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Students mention "hooking up" a few times, but don't go into any detail. Some kids discuss who they think is "hot." A teen concludes, "because boobs," once or twice. Two students romantically kiss, briefly.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Strong language includes infrequent use of: "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "a--hole," "chink," "wtf," "ching-chong," "slanty eyes," "hell," "butt," "sucks," and "boobs."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Brands and IPs mentioned include: Jabbawockeez Dance Group, RENT (musical), Les Miserables (musical), Hamilton (musical), John Legend, Sam Smith, Star Wars, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors, YouTube, Google, Pixar, Up, Coco, Wall-E, Marvel, Herschel Backpacks, Pocky, Sharpie Markers, Ranch 99 stores, In-N-Out Burger, Nerf toys, Converse, Jordans, Nike, Vans, Old Spice, Cap'N Crunch Cereal, NPR.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at house parties with no supervision. Some teens get drunk, display drunken behavior, and one passes out on a bed.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho (Eyes That Kiss in the Corners), is a young adult novel about a Taiwanese American family rocked by tragedy. An older brother, still a teen, kills himself before the story begins, and his younger sister, May, has to figure out how to continue. Still reeling from this tragedy, May and her family soon face blame, Asian hate, and forces that wish they would be and stay silent. But May chooses to fight back, take back the narrative, and show that she and her family will not be silenced. Multiple references to teen suicide. A teen throws himself in front of a train. Racist remarks, comments, slurs, and beliefs are displayed. Seniors in high school drink alcohol a few times, get drunk, and one passes out during a house party. Strong language includes some instances of: "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "a--hole," "chink," "wtf," "ching-chong," "slanty eyes," "hell."
Is It Any Good?
The story in The Silence that Binds Us is incredibly important and, in many ways, told well in Joanna Ho's first young adult novel. While still fiction, the story speaks to a common scene or collection of anti-Asian racist beliefs, and Ho takes incredible care in walking readers up to the tricky steps of race relations, dynamics, politics, and social interactions. Welcome is the focus on issues like disagreeing with your own family about how to deal with racism, the differences in the kinds of racism various people of color face, and the histories of how racist beliefs begin and get perpetuated.
This book takes the time to explain a lot, and while at times preachy, everything covered also feels necessary and like it could be formative for teen readers. Teen culture and dialogue are captured well, even if some side characters feel a bit like checking off boxes. This isn't exactly a fun read, but it's an important one.
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.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Books to Inspire Young Activists
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