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Silence by Michelle Sagara
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Silence (2012)

by Michelle Sagara

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Recommended?: Highly recommended, particularly for people who love ghost stories, strong friendships, and human-shaped monsters.

Our main character, Emma, spends part of her nights walking her dog Petal (a delightfully sweet and funny Rottweiler) to the cemetery so she can sit in silence by her boyfriend’s grave. The night the book opens, Emma actually sees someone she knows, new boy Eric.

Eric isn’t alone; he’s with an old woman who gives Emma the lantern she carries, along with a disturbing kiss, after she realizes Emma can see her. This unwelcome touch brings unfortunate side effects: excruciating headaches, lots of nausea, and, suddenly, Emma can see and hear things no one else can.

At the heart of it, this is a pretty straightforward story: Emma can see the dead, talk to them, use them to gain power. She’s tempted by the power, mostly because she sees the ways she could use it to do good, to help the ghosts, to solve the mystery surrounding what happens to them after they die.

There are other people like her in the world, necromancers who have no qualms about taking the power for their own needs, and Eric, his pseudo-brother Chase, and the old man who trains them (plus others) hunt down necromancers and kill them.

Emma is an excellent main character and narrator. She’s loving, loyal to family and friends, and driven by her desire to do good in the world. I particularly love her friendships; this is no lone girl, different from all the other girls (ignore that bit in the description). She is different than most people because she sees ghosts, but she participates in her life, even as she mourns her father and her boyfriend. She is close with her mother, she has dear friends, and those two things are such a nice change. Female friendships forever.

Also wonderful is the lack of a love triangle, which can be done well, but so often isn’t. Here, Emma is still in love with her boyfriend, and so desperately mourning him, there is no real room in her life for a new romance. It’s not that she’ll never love again, but it would have weakened the story for her to start out mourning him, and then immediately enter into a love triangle with Eric and Chase. The way the guys are introduced could lead to that, and I braced myself, but was happily surprised when it didn’t happen. Emma convinces the boys not to kill her not because they’re flirting with her, but because of how much she loves her friends, her family, and how much she tries to do good for the ghosts.

For the most part, I enjoyed the Sagara’s writing style, but there were a couple times that the narrative became far too talky in the middle of an action scene, including one of the last big scenes at the climax. That’s not the time I should be flipping ahead, hoping for something to happen, but that’s what I did.

Emma’s group of friends are pretty wonderful (I particularly love her best friend, Allison, who is smart and funny and sweet, and the token mean girl who is actually friendly and loyal and snarky), but there are some issues surrounding Michael, who is autistic. I’m neurotypical, and would be speaking from a place of privilege, so I’m going to link instead to Ada Hoffman’s review at Disability in Kidlit, which hits the things that pinged for me, and then goes into more depth with them: Ada Hoffman’s review of SILENCE.

Quote:

This is where a lot of my misgivings about the book come from, and is complicated to talk about. I don’t want to suggest that it is somehow bad or undesirable to provide clueful help to a disabled person. Yet I think a lot of us with disabilities will feel a familiar wince at the idea of being a charity case – of being valuable, not for ourselves, but so that someone else can earn goodness points by helping us.

I really love Michael’s character, particularly the way he is with child ghosts (oh, man, could be creepy because CHILD GHOSTS, ends up surprisingly sweet), but Hoffman has an excellent discussion of his purpose in the story.

In the end, I really enjoyed SILENCE, loved the characters, and immediately purchased the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and to explore more of this delightfully developed world. ( )
  carlamlee | Jul 8, 2015 |
Emma Hall has been visiting the graveyard - and more specifically, one particular grave - during her nightly walks of her Rottweiler Petal since her boyfriend, Nathan's death over the summer. Usually, the graveyard is a quiet place, but on one of their nightly walks, not only does Petal run off and cause a bit of a disruption, but Emma sees the new guy from school, Eric.

Only, it wasn't just Eric that Emma saw. She also saw a woman, who looked more than ancient, standing beside him. A woman Eric claimed not to be able to see and who set Petal on edge.

That night - and that encounter - start something for Emma that she never could have even imagined. A new life fraught with danger, things usually only read about in ghost stories . . . and people that might want to kill her.


Silence is the first book in a new YA trilogy. Not a lot of books deal with necromancy - and even fewer young adult novels it seems. Silence has a strong and unique paranormal story line that unfolds over the length of the book while still supporting a great non-paranormal/contemporary plot involving the characters and their lives.

Emma and her friends really make this a great story. As she's discovering things about these 'ghosts' and why she can see things others can't, her friends are right there alongside her. Her friends are not just throw in characters who are there when it's convenient and forgotten about for most of the rest of the book; they're integral to the plot.

As this is the first book in a trilogy, it's great that Emma's friends are a part of things and have scenes that Emma is not a part of. It allows the reader to find out more about Emma - and her past - than they would if it were told either in first person or did not integrate the secondary characters as fully or as well.

Readers are also discovering just what is happening to/going on with Emma as she does. It can make things a bit confusing at times - if she doesn't understand something, chances are the reader doesn't, either - and there are a few instances where the characters seemed to have one up on the reader. Overall, however, it was nice not to know more than Emma - and the other characters. As she figured things out, so did I. As she questioned things, so did I. It left for a bit of tension, some uncertainty and great fun in reading.

This first book absolutely sets up the next book in the series incredibly well. Not only do we have a basis for who the characters are and how things operate in Emma's world, there's also a killer ending and enough things left open that make me incredibly anxious for Book Two's release.

(And may I just mention that I kind of love Chase?)


received from the publisher for review
  BookSpot | May 18, 2015 |
SILENCE was an engaging and unique paranormal story. Emma has been just going through the motions since her boyfriend died in a car accident the past summer. If anyone asks, she says she is fine but no one, least of all herself, really believes it. She has taken to spending a lot of time in the cemetery by Nathan's grave with only her elderly pet rottweiler Petal as her companion.

One evening she meets the new boy at school - Eric - and a strange older lady there. The lady kisses her and hands her a lantern before disappearing. Emma is immediately struck down with what she thinks is a major migraine. Eric takes her home and the next day, when she is struck down again at school, takes her to the emergency room where she sees her father. The only thing is, her father died a number of years ago. But when Emma touches him, not only does she see him but so do the other people with her.

Eric has come to kill her before she learns what she can do as a necromancer. But something about Emma's confusion and the way she interacts with the dead, stays his hand. Emma isn't what he thought necromancers were. Emma doesn't want power over the dead.

What I liked most about this story, besides the interesting world building, were the relationships that Emma has with her friends. Emma has a very strong support network in her best friend Allison, her friend Michael, and her friend Amy. Each of the supporting characters are well-written and well-rounded characters. Michael is particularly unique as he is high functioning autistic. The way his friends accept him for who he is is rather amazing. His own unique world view also helps move the plot along when another necromancer, this one quite evil, comes to try to kill Emma and steal her powers.

A lot of this story has Emma trying to learn about necromancers and trying to use her powers. Her main goal is to rescue a four-year-old who died in a burning building and who is still trapped there because of his power. Her sympathy for the child's plight is what makes her different than most necromancers.

I liked Emma's relationship with Eric and with Eric's partner Chase. It wasn't at all a romance because Emma's heart is still with her boyfriend Nathan. But the mutual respect and liking between them added to the richness of the story. And the way Eric and Chase bickered and argued provided some comic relief to a story that was really emotionally intense.

Fans of paranormals will enjoy this unique story. ( )
  kmartin802 | Jun 27, 2014 |
I'm usually not really into young adult urban fantasy, but this was by Michelle Sagara, and it didn't sound bad, so I gave it a try. And it paid off, because I actually liked this book quite a bit. It avoids the angsty teenager bits. It avoids the obvious romance bits. Oh, I'm sure there will be romance in one of the sequels, but there's only the merest hint of it here. The book is about a bunch of teenagers, but it also avoids the bitchiness of teenage social behavior. The main character, Emma, had real friends that back each other up, and one of those friends is the social queen of high school. Another of her friends is autistic. It makes for some very interesting dynamics, especially when Emma finds out she can see dead people. So yes, this is an easy-to-read young adult urban, but it also has a bit more depth to it. In particular, Emma and her friends have more depth to them. The bond between them is of such a nature that you just want to spend more time with them. This'll be one of the few ya urbans of which I will read the sequel... ( )
  zjakkelien | Jan 26, 2014 |
This is going to be a tough review for me to write, mainly because Silence is one of those books I just couldn't get into, but when the time comes to describe the reasons why, I am at a loss. I mean, it's not like there were a bunch of faults I could point to, or even any single factor in the book which I vehemently disliked. At the same time, nothing about it stood out for me either. As a whole, it just left me feeling cold.

The story? I thought it was okay. The book follows Emma, a grief-stricken teen who has taken to visiting the graveyard at nights ever since her boyfriend died in a car accident. One evening during one of these routine walks, she runs into Eric, the new boy at school. There is a mysterious old woman with him, and when Emma experiences the old crone's touch, it awakens a power in her. After the events of that night, Emma realizes that she can see, touch, and speak with the dead.

It turns out that Emma is a Necromancer. And that means Eric now must kill her. As to why he has to do that, it wasn't really explained beyond the fact he belongs to a group of Necromancer hunters, so clearly Emma has to die. Like I said, it's not a very deep story; there are lots of moments like this in the book where I just had to tell myself to roll with it. In any case, Eric is obviously very conflicted about this, and as such is hoping that current circumstances will take care of the business for him. For you see, Emma has discovered the trapped ghost of a four-year-old boy and is determined to help save him, but doing so she will be putting her own life on the line.

Anyway, the characters in this novel? Also just okay. With the exception of Michael, who is a good portrayal of a teen with a neuro-developmental disability, everyone else feels like a variation of the usual archetypes you find in a young adult novel. You have the best friend with a heart of gold, the queen bee whose parents are loaded and throws all the wildest parties, the smart-alecky guy with the smug attitude who thinks he's edgy. Chase royally grated on my nerves. He's that kid you knew in high school who did things like swear because he thinks it makes him look cool, and who everyone just wanted to throttle.

The writing? Okay. The storytelling? Maybe a little on the slow side, but otherwise okay as well. Like I said, there wasn't anything I really disliked about Silence. It's entirely possibly I'm not giving it the fairest shake, but I just think I've reached the point where "just okay" doesn't quite cut it with me anymore, especially when it comes to a young adult novel. Sometimes, it's the bunch of little minor things that can compound and sour me on the overall experience. Similarly, I think this book is one of those cases where too many "so-so's" managed to build up and wear me down.

You'll definitely see me picking up Ms. Sagara's books again in the future, but they probably won't be from this series. Unfortunately, this book just wasn't for me. I won't deny I've become a lot pickier with my YA lately, and overall Silence simply lacked the "oomph" I was looking for. ( )
1 vote stefferoo | Jan 15, 2014 |
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This is for the girls:
Callie
Katie
Caroline
Molly
Alexandra
Rada
With thanks, with gratitude, although admittedly they might not understand why.
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Everything happens at night
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After losing her boyfriend in a terrible accident, Emma regularly visits the cemetery at night until she encounters a strange old woman.

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