(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

A Sudden Silence is a novel that deals with the problems of alcohol abuse, death of a sibling, and physical disability in a contemporary setting. The treatment of these ideas is couched in a fast-paced story that has the added appeal of suspense as Jesse seeks to track down the hit-and-run driver who kills his deaf brother Bry. The novel is well crafted and credibly portrays the people, the events, and the emotions entwined in a tale of life and death as Jesse lives and Bry dies; of guilt and grieving as Jesse wonders if he somehow could have saved Bry; and of vengeful searching and painful discoveries as the driver who hit Bry is eventually found.

There is a strong anti-alcohol message conveyed throughout the story, but Bunting does not allow it to overwhelm the plot. Rather, the message is revealed as the reader watches the agonizing consequences of a drunken driver's irresponsible actions, as two families are devastated by Bry's death, both Bry's and eventually that of the driver who kills him.

The theme of death creates a somber mood for this story, but the gloom is ameliorated somewhat by the detective angle as Jesse and Bry's girlfriend Chloe work together to find the killer. There is also a lesser theme of romance as Jesse finds himself strongly attracted to Chloe in spite of feelings of disloyalty to Bry. When the mystery of the hit-and-run driver is finally resolved, revenge turns out to be less than sweet, and Jesse realizes...

(The entire section is 286 words.)