Book: The Silenced
Author: James DeVita
In the near future, Marena has a reasonably normal life. She goes to school, she fights with her dad, she hangs out with her boyfriend. The catch? Her school is a Youth Treatment Facility that specializes in “loyalty correction.” Her fights with her dad are all about her mother, executed for speaking out against the state. And she’s not even allowed to touch her boyfriend in public.
As the state regime grows ever more totalitarian, Marena knows she has to do something, and does it under the name of the White Rose. It starts small--graffiti, flyers urging her classmates to speak out, mild vandalism. Even this is too much for the state, which promptly begins the hunt for her. Marena has to stay one step ahead of the authorities, because when the state party’s name is Zero Tolerance, mere detention is pretty low on the list of possible punishments.
Based on the story of Sophie Scholl, this book is a thought-provoking tale about the consequences of both speech and silence. Even for those who've never heard of Scholl and the White Rose, the parallels to Nazi Germany are blindingly obvious, even down to the “Racial Purity” index that is part of their state IDs. However, DeVita’s story takes place in a future America, one that seems altogether too possible these days.
Marena’s memories of her mother and her passionate belief in self-expression in the face of imposed doctrine form the spine of this thick but absorbing novel. Equally as compelling, in a different way, is the subplot about the state official searching for Marena. While it serves to amp up the tension, it also shines a light on the power of Marena’s forbidden words.
Finally, kudos to DeVita for not making Marena’s relationship with Dex the plot of the book. While it is central, the real story is about Marena’s growing strength and conviction, and the power of words to change the world--and more important, people’s minds.