Alys Aronson's life is forever changed when her brother, Luke, shoots and kills fifteen people.
Alys was in the library when the gunshots started and though she'll never know why, her brother did decide to spare her that day. But in the aftermath of that terrible tragedy, and even though Luke took his own life the day of the shooting, Alys and her family become the focus of the town's frustration and misery. What's worse, Alys will never be able to understand why her brother did what he did that horrible morning.
Silent Alarm was a tough read. Jennifer Banash forces the reader to take a step back and consider the immediate families of the perpetrators of these incidents. It's a hard thing to consider - that even when the killer is gone the family themselves, while also grieving, are not only the focus of investigations but public scrutiny and contempt as well. And reconciling the emotions attached to the loss of loved ones and the anger against the person responsible without also including the immediate family is understandably hard for anyone in these events. Were they in any way responsible? What did they know? Could they have prevented the whole thing?
In this situation, there seem to be no real extenuating circumstances: Alys and Luke's parents are normal parents and their family an average one. Alys admits that they'd all seen a change in Luke, but nothing that would obviously point to such a tragic end. In fact, the harder she tries to look for an explanation the more out of reach it seems to become. Even worse, Alys feels guilty for grieving the loss of her brother - the brother who was always there for her, helping and supporting her for over a decade. The brother who murdered her classmates. That this person is one and the same is almost impossible for Alys to comprehend.
The subject of Silent Alarm isn't an easy one to approach - either for a reader or, I believe, for a writer, but I though Banash did a great job. She humanizes the family and the killer. She makes the reader consider the way mass shootings affect everyone. And she forces you to consider that at least sometimes there is no explanation, that sometimes there is no one to blame once the killer is gone, and that in those cases the killer's family are also victims.