An enlightening fiction that speaks loudly to younger readers through silence
Young adult fiction written in the 21st century has been questionable when it comes to themes for the younger readers to take away from these stories. Granted, books such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer are but a few of the more popular series among younger readers, but what messages are the readers truly grasping from books such as these? That the only love one will find is from a paranormal being that doesn’t exist? That the world is so cruel that one needs to fight for his or her life just to survive? Of course these stories are not true and are mainly read for entertainment purposes, but what if young readers take these themes to heart? What if the plots of these stories are taken too seriously? These are concerns that could be expressed from older generations. Parents want to show their children that the world can be cruel, but that there is good in it as well. Blossoming author Deborah Lytton expresses the good and beauty that can be found in life in her new young adult book Silence.
Silence is about a young high school girl, Stella, who has a bright future ahead of her in the arts. She has a beautiful voice and wants to be a Broadway star someday. However, a terrible accident dashes her dreams when, afterwards, she finds herself deaf. She believes her life and her future are all but lost dreams drifting out to sea. Enter Hayden, a boy who has suffered a terrible past and has a bad stutter who ends up saving Stella’s life in more ways than one. When these two broken souls come together, Stella realizes there is more to life than just the small bubble of a world she was living in and Hayden understands how a torn heart can be mended yet again and that one is never truly alone.
In her second novel, Lytton does an incredible job at expressing to young adults that life is not just about looking down at the small glowing screen on their smart phones. That life is not over if something terrible happens. If something bad happens in life, it is merely an obstacle. What does one do when an obstacle gets in the way? One must find a way to conquer it: to fight it, defeat it, and to never give up. There is a saying that goes very well with this theme said by an unknown source: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
Not only does Lytton convey a message of never giving up to the younger generation, she also conveys a message of hope: hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that one day, everything will be okay. Messages of hope are sorely needed in today’s society, especially for the generation after Millennials, often referred to as Generation Z. Generation Z deals with more technology than Millennials did when they were younger and though technology can help in some aspects, such as faster research through search engines and keeping in contact with people anywhere in the world, it does not help in other aspects. Negatives evolving from technology nowadays include cyberbullying, strain on eyes, and lack of verbal communication. Unnecessary stresses in the younger generations’ lives arise due to technological problems such as these.
Silence shows younger readers who are willing to look more closely at what words can convey that there is more to life than just looking at a screen. There is more to do than just playing a video game or keeping up to date with the latest social media. One can go to the beach and simply stare at the waves rolling in or feel the sand between his or her toes. One can admire nature and all it has to share with the world. One can spend more quality time with his or her family. One can spend time with another person and truly get to know them for who they are rather than who they claim to be online.
Two other aspects that are rarely found in young adult books nowadays can also be found in Lytton’s new book and are quite refreshing to read about: the arts and church. Lytton has a background in acting and conveys how one feels on the stage and how one can lose oneself in the role he or she plays, but she also expresses how a writer feels when writing poetry or reading classics left behind by the brilliant minds of long ago. She shows the younger generation, who are taught mainly science and mathematics in school, that they can also lean more towards the liberal arts. If a student wants to, he or she can become a writer or an actor or a musician and leave a creative mark on the world. In a society where cursive is no longer taught and artistic electives are being dropped in schools, this is a breath of fresh air for the older generation to read. It is also wonderful to hear of a teenage character attending church because she wants to. Stella goes to church with her mother and sister at various points in the book because she wants to and in her silence, she is able to talk with God and pray, having faith and hope that her life will be just fine. Though Generation Z is not as religious as past generations, perhaps the small religious hints within this book will have young readers curious about religious possibilities.
On just her second book, Lytton has grasped her unique writing style and will most assuredly grasp the attention of readers both young and old with her new work. Silence is a quick read that will speak loud and clear to those who wish to listen to what the words will say to them. Every reader, especially those of Generation Z, will take a different message away from Silence, but the message every reader should take away is simply this: there is always hope and tomorrow, no matter what it holds, will always come.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on February 23, 2015.