Speak No Evil

Young Adult - Social Issues
314 Pages
Reviewed on 09/30/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

I admit, I read and review lots of books but it’s not long before I forget most of them. Such will never be the case with Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner. Aimed at young adults, it presents the story of Melody Fisher, a sensitive, talented young adult thrust into the foster home system following the death of her mother and disappearance of her father while still a child. It takes many years, an in-tune therapist and a caring case worker to break through Melody’s wall of silence regarding the abuse she’s endured both at school and in those foster homes.

Unlike most, including myself, who have written books related to child sexual abuse, Gardner has chosen to tell Melody’s story in a most unusual and powerful way. Rather than simply proceeding chronologically, while Gardner does begin with the joy and love her parents showed Melody, readers suddenly find themselves listening to her story at various stages of her life: sometimes she’s 5, or 9, 11, or 16. Then she’s 7 again. Is this confusing? Initially, a little. But when readers realize that this teen who refuses to speak to anyone is slowly facing the unspeakable heartaches of her past with the help of her therapist, it all makes sense. It’s also a very clever way that Gardner has used to keep readers in suspense about what really happened to Melody. By writing Speak No Evil this way, Gardner gave me an unforgettable book impossible to put down.

When we first meet the teenaged Melody, who instead of a cell-phone always carries a music player, who dreams constantly of the mountains and natural surrounds of her early childhood, and who aches incredibly from the loss of her parents and others whom she came to love, like Quati Raincrow, we are intrigued by her love of and comfort in music, nature and all animals, including snakes. Some of the episodes with snakes will make readers cringe but no more than Melody’s encounters with male sexual abusers, both adult and teen. Those encounters ultimately plunge Melody into the only place she finds comfort: music and silence. The therapist has his work cut out for him, but the method he chooses to finally get Melody to open up is brilliant and effective.

There is so much I’d like to tell you about Speak No Evil. It’s made an indelible impression on me, as I’m sure it will on most readers. There are too Melody Fishers in our homes and schools who lock themselves away in a world where they are both desperate to be heard and afraid to speak up. Though circumstances won’t be identical, Speak No Evil is their story. It’s not my job to tell them that story but to encourage them, and those who care about young people’s mental health to read it for themselves. I have no doubt, that like me, they will find this book unforgettable. A brilliant and novel approach to addressing important social issues. Bravo!

Jack Magnus

Speak No Evil is a contemporary fiction novel for young and new adults written by Liana Gardner. The young woman who stabbed Troy Alexander, Asheville’s hottest young football player, would not speak to the officers at the precinct where she had been taken. Melody seemed to have lost the power to speak over the long years she had spent in the foster care system. She sat huddled with her music playing and did her best to shut out everything that was going on around her. Miss Prescott, her social worker ever since Melody’s mom died and her father disappeared, soon arrived and took charge of her. She had arranged with the judge for Melody to be released pending trial. Melody would be home schooled, and she’d be taken in by another foster home. Dr. Kane quietly sat taking notes as Mrs. Langdon, the somewhat frowzy woman who was currently fostering Melody, pushed the girl into his office. He would be having two-hour sessions with her until Melody was able to testify in court about her reason for stabbing Troy Alexander. Kane was a quiet, compelling man, who seemed to share her love of nature. His insights on the behavior of the squirrel and the crow they were watching from his window seemed to calm her. First, he’d get her to share the music she played continuously on her mp3 player. And, until she could speak, he’d speak for both of them.

Speak No Evil is alternately beautiful and troubling -- and a totally compelling read. Melody’s memories of her life and her adventures with her Cherokee dad are transcendent and magical. I was hooked as I read of Melody and her dad’s trip to Grandfather Mountain to find new snakes for their church services. I loved reading how her dad would take the ailing snakes from the church, heal and then release them back, replacing them with the new snakes they would find on the mountain. Watching as Melody sings to the snakes, composing her song as she sees them approaching her is unforgettable. Equally magical are the sessions Roger Kane and Melody have each day, sessions I began to look forward to almost as much as the two participants seemed to. Gardner’s characters are finely drawn and credible, and her plot is so relevant considering the thousands of children lost in the foster care system and at the mercy of those charged to care for them. As I read the first few pages, I realized I would be immersing myself in a very special book, a conviction that only got stronger as I read on. It’s one of those books you want never to end. Speak No Evil is most highly recommended.

Tracy Young

The first twelve years of Melody’s life were idyllic. She had a loving family and benefited from a close-knit, caring community. Her father taught her to commune with nature and her mother encouraged her to bring joy into the lives of others with her voice. Melody could sing like an angel and did so at her local church, much to the pride of her parents. Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner shares with the reader a story of how a tragic accident can change a young girl’s life forever. A series of foster homes and the experiences she encounters turn the girl who could charm the birds from the trees into a young woman who has retreated into herself completely. Following a shocking event at her local church, her therapist is tasked with preparing Melody to tell her story or face a punishment that could destroy her completely. Can he manage to coax the girl who has failed to speak for two years to open up to him and tell the world what really happened that fateful day and the years leading up to it?

Speak No Evil is a gripping book and the narrative switching from current times to significant periods in the past is the perfect way to tell the story. The reader knows that something devastating has happened to Melody but the story leading up to the revelation is equally shocking. Liana Gardner explains that she has written the book using personal experience and the stories of other women who have undergone similar experiences. Melody’s silence signifies the way some women feel about sharing their stories with other people, and how difficult it is to overcome the desire to retreat. I really enjoyed this book and would urge others to read it; the story of Melody and her bravery will speak to you and stay with you for quite some time.

K.C. Finn

Speak No Evil is a work of contemporary fiction written for young adults, penned by author Liana Gardner. Graphic in nature and suitable for older teens and adult readers, this harrowing thriller tells the tale of Melody Fisher, a young woman who is certain that trouble follows wherever she goes. From the tragic death of her mother, for which Melody blames herself, to the terrible things which happen as she travels through different foster homes, Melody’s life crystallizes with horrifying sexual abuse. But Melody chooses silence over speech, believing tragically that her past means that she’ll create more trouble for herself if she breathes a word to anyone.

Victim silence is a very important issue, and Liana Gardner treats it with the respect it deserves when delivering this emotionally intelligent tale for her audiences. The circumstances of Melody’s young life are transient and ever-changing, making this a largely character-led tale that follows her inner emotional journey as its core plot. Though it will not suit every reader due to its highly emotive style, Melody’s message and the consequences of her silence are an important read for those looking to open up these kinds of discussions with young women, and I often thought whilst reading how wonderful it would be to use this book in classrooms for social issues. The prose is well developed, the dialogue fresh and authentic to the contemporary time frame, and overall, Speak No Evil produces a harrowingly accurate account of a terrible secret kept. A highly recommended read.

Lesley Jones

In Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner, it is December 2014, and 15-year-old Melody Fisher sits in a police station waiting to hear her fate after stabbing classmate Troy Alexander. It was six years ago that Melody’s life seemed idyllic, living in the Cherokee community of Appalachia with her parents. She had been on snake hunting trips with her father from a young age, and it was there she had learned the skill that song would calm the snakes and keep her safe. Since losing her beloved mother to a snake attack at the age of nine and her father abandoning her, Melody was forced into foster homes and the care system. Her brutal journey of abuse and neglect resulted in Melody carrying the burden of shame and guilt. Will music be Melody’s only comfort or will there be someone who can rescue this damaged soul and put her back together piece by piece.

Prepare to go on an emotional rollercoaster with this superb novel, telling the story of one child’s horrific journey of heartbreak and abuse. The author is a very talented storyteller and has created the most memorable and eclectic mix of characters that you will instantly love and treasure or hate. Dr Kane and Miss Prescott, for me, were living angels and a salvation for the kind-hearted and beautiful soul that is Melody Fisher. There are some dramatic scenes, especially with Melody and the snake in the barn, and the narrative is perfectly written to bring the plot to life. I feel a very sensitive subject has been handled with the utmost care and consideration. Any victim of abuse or those who blame themselves for events out of their control need to read this novel, and realize their disjointed view of themselves can be remedied. There are hands of friendship to be found if you can build up the courage to trust once more. This book should be in every school library and youth centre. I cannot recommend it highly enough.