The prologue in which the shooting goes down and Alys stares down the barrel of the gun held by her own older brother is a chilling scene no one will forget any time soon. It made me tear up personally because of how close I came to being Alys and my brother being Luke once upon a time, but it's a startling sort of scene that stands strong on its own even without any personal connection.
The subsequent fallout, Alys's family's exile from their community as they're blamed for what Luke did before he killed himself, and the implosion of their family is painful to read at times, especially when it comes time to bury Luke. If you're looking for something to make you emotional and possibly even make you cry, Silent Alarm is a good bet. It never got me quite to the point of flat-out sobbing, but the misty eyes struck me more than a few times (see: everything about Alys's prom, which has my heart aching just thinking about it).
What Left Me Wanting More:
Still, it doesn't hit as hard as it should considering everything Alys is going through. She clearly has a case of PTSD as shown by her hallucinations of Luke and her friend Miranda plus her flashbacks, but she gets no treatment for it whatsoever and it goes away on its own. It's a rather irresponsible, disrespectful way to write about a mental illness that affects millions of people for reasons ranging from rape to war to shootings just like this one. Banash never digs into the meat of why Luke did it either. We read these novels to try and see exactly that but get no answers here. It's a bit frustrating. Some shooters like Adam Lanza leave behind no traces of why the way Luke does, but then shooters like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris and Seung-Hui Cho and Elliott Rodger do. They're the majority here.
For all its flaws, Banash's sophomore novel is reminiscent of Jennifer Brown's YA novels like Hate List in the best possible ways--and that's not something I say lightly as a huge fan of Hate List. Fans of Jennifer Brown and other hard-hitting contemporary writers will find a beautiful, painful novel in Silent Alarm.