13 Dec 2011



When Torey Hayden first met fifteen-year-old Kevin, he was barricaded under a table. Desperately afraid of the world around him, he hadn't spoken a word in eight years. He was considered hopeless and incurable, but Hayden refused to believe it, though she realized it might well take a miracle to break through the walls he had built around himself.

With unanswering devotion and gentle, patient love, she set out to free him - and slowly uncovered a shocking violent history and a terrible secret that an unfeeling bureaucracy had simply filed away and forgotten.

But she never gave up on this tragic 'lost case'. For a trapped and frightened boy desperately needed her help - and she knew in her heart she could not rest easy until she had rescued him from the darkness.
....... Inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Zoo-boy.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 58): ......"Yes, I do this for fun. And I'm having it. Why aren't you?"
Charity looked startled. "Well, I guess maybe I am," she said. "I just didn't know it."

KEEP IT OR NOT?: Not, though I shall be passing it onto my (naughty) little sister who I'm quite sure has not read it.

Now I don't know about you but when reviewing books I more often than not find myself if not exactly justifying why then explaining why I did/didn't enjoy certain things about the plot, about the characters etc, what I don't usually find myself justifying is why I chose that particular book .......  why then do I find myself doing it with this type of memoir?

I guess you could say this genre of book was a guilty pleasure of mine, though pleasure is the wrong word to use as I nearly always finding these books difficult reading and always feel as uncomfortable as if I'd been caught eavesdropping on someone else's conversation. That said, I do think some of these stories need to be told and, certainly with regard to this author's books (Torey is an educational psychologist and teacher who has worked with many disturbed and vulnerable children over the years) feel there is something to be learnt as as a qualified teaching assistant myself I find some of her techniques interesting. Enough said of this though and onto my thoughts of Silent Boy.

Having read several of Torey's books before, (my (naughty) little sister introduced me to her work a while ago), I have to say that though this book was based on an adolescent as opposed to the children who had featured in the other books I had read, and was a lot more sinister in content, Silent Boy very much followed the formula laid down in her other books ....... so much so that the extended title of 'He was a frightened boy who refused to speak - until a teacher's love broke through the silence' could have been added to any of them for that it seems is what Torey does, takes a damaged child and with the power of her love breaks through the 'barriers'. Yes, I guess what I'm saying is that, in my opinion, once you have read one of Torey's books you have pretty much read them all (give or take the particulars of the child concerned and their particular circumstances). That said, I know this will be enjoyed by many hardcore fans and newcomers alike.

So, what exactly is the book about? Well, I think the blurb on the inner front cover just about sums it up. Kevin is a young man, also known as Zoo Boy, who, when Torey first meets him, does not communicate with anyone and chooses to barricade himself under tables between chair legs - hence his nick-name. Deemed as a hopeless case Silent Boy chronicles Torey's difficulties in breaking through Kevin's fears to reach the person she knows lay hidden there. Not exactly pleasant reading as a whole series of childhood abuse is uncovered.

My final thought on the book.....

 Whilst I obviously found Kevin's story disturbing, I was also disturbed by some of the comments made by Torey and her fellow professionals. Now I know time has passed since this book was written (it was first published in 1983 but there is no indication as to when the events actually took place) as have the titles we label people with and the borders in which we work but I was shocked to read some of the residents actually officially labelled with the titles of loopy and retard. Not as shocked though as reading of some of the conditions in which Torey was allowed to work not only with Kevin but also Charity who is another child who features in the book though very much in a secondary role. Not wishing to include any major spoilers I won't go into great details here but suffice to say I don't think that in this day and age of 'child protection' policies any professional would find themselves allowed to work in this way without certain restrictions.

Ex-library stock, Silent Boy was the 103rd book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge.


Mary (Bookfan) said...

Sounds like the author should write an updated edition of the book. I like some memoirs but I'm not sure this is for me.

R. Ramesh said...

ya mary is right on updated edition..

Suko said...

Very interesting review, Petty. Thankfully, times have changed and (many) people are more sensitive to the differences and challenges of others, which is reflected in the language they use.

Congrats on your 103rd book!

Kelly said...

I find stories like this heartbreaking and I don't read them very often. I'll keep this author in mind, though, for the next time I feel the urge.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Oh I don't think this one is for me. I think I'd get too upset. Still might be a good history type book for those wondering what it was like in the early 80s. Thanks for the review!

Mama Zen said...

This sounds fascinating!

A note on terminology: as late as 1990, the accepted term was "mentally retarded." Shortly thereafter, that became a big no-no, and you had to use the term "person with mental retardation."

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

what a great mind you possess, tracy!
what a brilliant review!

loved your thoughts on this subject matter.
i couldn't agree more!

umm, i don't think this one is for me either.

hope you have a great remainder of your day!

Mamakucingbooks said...

I have read a few of such books and felt heart sick. Now I dont buy these anymore.

Have you read The Boy Call It. That was a pretty sad book to read.

For me I preferred happy books. Just finished reading Blue Christmas

naida said...

This one sounds like it is a bit disturbing. I know what you mean about feeling like you've 'been caught eavesdropping on someone else's conversation' while reading these types of books.