TOP FIFTY YA HORROR NOVELS OF THE LAST DECADE PART 4: NUMBERS 20-11
14. Liana Gardner — Speak No Evil (2019)
Liana Gardner’s brilliant Speak No Evil revolves around a sixteen-year-old girl who is in the American care-home system and has not spoken for almost two years. The doctor treating her realises music is very important to her and uses lyrics as a way of breaking down the communication barriers. The reasons for this are revealed very slowly and is told over multiple time periods, going back to when Melody Fisher was five-years-old, with the novel repeatedly jumping across the years, but as it progresses the backstory slowly closes in on the Melody who is sixteen. Ultimately this it is a novel about real life horror; abuse, overcoming it, and the resilience of Melody Fisher as she slowly, with a lot of help, turns her life around. I am not ashamed to say I had a tear in my eye on more than one occasion.
It is the backdrop of the story which edges it into dark fiction, whilst also working as a compelling family drama, as this is very dark stuff. Melody’s parents both attend a church where snake-handling is part of the normal Sunday service, however, Melody’s mother is also scared of the snakes, but Melody is gifted with animals and has a beautiful voice which almost has a hypnotic quality. Soon something goes horribly wrong with the snakes which rips their family apart. Teenage novels which touch on subjects as dark as this need to applaud, and although it also features a very unpleasant rape scene, it is handled sensitively. Everybody needs hope and even though Melody does not talk she does have others fighting in her corner for her, including the reader, I loved this girl. Perhaps in real life she would slip through the cracks of society? But this if fiction and we all need hope. A quite beautiful book and one in which I am very happy to champion and have two copies in my library. AGE 14+
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