Code of Silence: Living a Lie Comes with a Price
Three eighth grade kids are eye witnesses to an armed robbery and potential murder at their favorite local diner. One of them is partially seen by the bad guys; the message to the witness, under cover of darkness, is "We'll find you. We'll make sure you don't talk." (OK, that's a rough paraphrase ☺). The problem? Two of the bad guys, though masked, were clearly wearing cop pants.... Are the police in on it? The kids' plan? A code of silence: tell no one (not even their parents). Hide the security camera's hard drive they swiped. Lay low. Play it cool. When the cops show up at their school to start questioning kids, the code of silence trio know the game is up--or very nearly so. These bad guys aren't messing around....
Because this is a book from a well known Christian publisher, it's no surprise that references to God and prayer are thrown around in the book. Unlike many prayers-as-evangelistic-opportunities, these one liners are the whispers of desperate kids. The code of silence trio are presumably Christians; some of their families and peers ask them if they're praying, and the kids themselves reference their own prayers. Yet, there is no overt gospel message or even remotely identifiable denominational label. This book will appeal just fine to nominal Christians and even a broader audience. That being said, one of the things I appreciated in this book is the characters' honesty and recognition that their continual lies--necessitated by their commitment to their code of silence--are creating a barrier between them and their families and the Lord. By the end of the book, this is all reconciled, and their hearts are predictably more at peace. "Lying doesn't pay" comes through loud and clear as the book builds to its climax. Another theme I appreciated is the subtle idea that kids don't always know what's best. Novel in this day and age, I can assure you. Here's a middle grades novel that wraps up with the kids taking matters in their own hands at their peril. The parents don't exactly "save the day," but the kids do realize at the end that they should have trusted their parents from the get go as well as the others in authority over them. Nice. (And yet, I don't feel the book is too preachy and "message-y".)
This is your classic mystery with a nice twist at the end. Writing is pretty good for mystery standards, which I was pleased with. The perspective changes a few times between the three main characters; this wasn't necessary, in my opinion, and gets a little distracting. In addition, the middle third of the book is a touch slow--just a touch. That being said, it's a gripping read, and I think kids who enjoy mysteries will like it a lot!
- As with any book, Christian or not, ask your kids what they think of the actions of the main characters--would they have done the same thing?
- It sounds, on a very few occasions, like the main characters might be taking the name of the Lord in vain. Arguable--what do your kids think? Is it justified? Is it a gasp of a prayer?
- Ask your kids if there are times when they've been tempted to lie--is there ever an okay time to lie? What about trusting your parents?
- Lots to discuss here--don't make this book a "teaching opportunity" but make note of some potential teachable moments that may crop up.
Book on shelves now; book reviewed via ARC from netgalley; cover image from Zonderkidz