Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Reviewed by Arianne: Louder Than Words by Laura Jarratt.

Product details:
Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Paperback, 461 pages.
Release date: June 5th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

Rafi hasn't spoken for eight years. It's up to her to tell her brother's story now that he can't speak either ...

Rafi idolises her seventeen-year-old brother, who is popular, generous and a borderline genius. Ever protective, Silas always includes her when he's with his friends, so Rafi gets to hear all sorts of things that younger sisters wouldn't normally be a part of. Like the time Silas hacks a gaming site to help out his friend Josie, who has been trashed by her ex.

With Josie, Rafi finds herself with a proper friend for the first time in her life. As they grow closer, she realises that she wants to find a way back into the world – she wants to learn to speak again. But Silas has found a new interest too – and it’s taking him away from everything that was once important to him. Can Rafi find the words to save her brother?

I love Laura Jarratt’s books. Both Skin Deep and By Any Other Name, while not perfect, are hard-hitting, dramatic and deeply moving. Laura Jarratt is so underrated as an author – I’m constantly recommending her work so that more and more people can read and enjoy her wonderful additions to the YA shelf – but for me, Louder Than Words only further cements her right to be named one of the foremost UKYA writers being published today.

 Louder than Words possesses many of the same qualities as her previous books, but with the fascinating and unique twist of the main character being unable to speak. Rafi is the kind of character we’re always asking for more of in YA. She is flawed and wise and na├»ve and complex, and most surprisingly, funny. You’ll never have to fear being unable to relate to her as a protagonist, as she’s actually one of the most realistic characters I’ve seen leading a UKYA novel all year.

 I didn’t connect with the other leading characters, particularly Josie, as much as I did with Rafi, but I still appreciated their role in the novel. There’s a focus on friendship and loyalty that you don’t often see in young adult books these days, and it helped to ground the novel amidst the chaos of other storylines. We only see Silas through Rafi’s eyes and his letters, but he’s vital to events of the book –and, since I kind of love the name Silas, I was pretty much always going to be intrigued by him here. He undergoes a radical transformation that I didn’t really engage with, and I ended up really hating Lara, but it’s necessary to highlight the thematic issues of the book, which include activism, trauma, loss, grief and coming of age.

 Backstory and plot are, of course, key to understanding and enjoying this book. Written in Jarratt’s classic and straightforward style, Rafi’s story is delivered with finesse as well as a flair for twists and turns. Just like By Any Other Name and Skin Deep, Jarratt unleashes an unexpected skill towards the book’s finale; it’s as tense and gripping as any crime drama. If you can stick with the slow beginning and immerse yourself in the book’s world, you will be soundly rewarded. 

I wasn’t as emotionally invested with this book as I wanted to be – there are only so many times long-term readers can be hit with the same wave of shock before it becomes regular and unimpressive – but what’s really fantastic about Louder than Words is that it’s a true standalone, so you don’t need past experience of the author or even the genre to dive right in. In a world where everybody’s trying to make concepts and series last forever, the short, sharp burst of story found within these pages is really refreshing. 

In short: original, compelling and well-written, Louder than Words is another worthy contribution to YA from the great Laura Jarratt. It lacks a little of the same shine seen in her previous books and it will never be one of my favourites, but it should definitely be on your TBR list. 


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