I received a copy of In the Silences from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
In the Silences by Rachel Gold is a young adult novel centering around Kaz Adams, a genderqueer teen trying to navigate growing up in a world that seems increasingly off-kilter.
The backbone of the story is Kaz’s friendship with Aisha Warren, who moves into Kaz’s neighborhood when the two are fourteen. They quickly bond over a shared love of comics, and as their friendship deepens over the next year, Kaz realizes that their feelings for Aisha aren’t solely platonic. But Kaz is exploring their gender identity and is unsure if they’ll turn out to be a gender that Aisha is attracted to. More than that, their close friendship with Aisha opens their eyes to the prevalence of racism in their town.
Kaz struggles with the mismatch between how they see themself and how the world sees them, but at the same time, they’re aware that they have camouflage; they can modify their gender expression if necessary. The way the world sees Aisha isn’t something she can escape.
The two support each other in their struggles and explorations and their friendship is a really sweet, delightful thing to read. I liked seeing them bond over favorite comics and discussions of when they first saw themselves represented on the page. There are a lot of comic book references, especially to the X-Men, and particularly the villain Apocalypse, who Kaz uses as a recurring metaphor throughout the story. Although you don’t need previous familiarity with any of the mentioned comics – the references are explained pretty well – it’s a nice bonus for fans.
There are heavy parts to the story, of course – how can there not be, when it tackles hard topics like racism and transphobia? – but overall it’s a sweet book. Kaz and Aisha’s friendship is the foundation of everything, and it’s a strong foundation. Family is another important aspect of the story, and Kaz’s grandmother Milo was one of my favorite characters.
I really loved this book. I loved the way Kaz narrated everything; the tone and style is very engaging. Gold largely manages to avoid being didactic or preachy, and she never favors the message over the story. And what an important story it is. It’s a wonderful exploration of gender, race, sexuality, and the various ways they intersect; it’s a story with specific, well-realized characters that are going through particular struggles, but also ones universal to growing up.
I was glued to this from start to finish. I wish I had had this book as a teenager, but it still resonated deeply with me. Highly recommended.
In the Silences by Rachel Gold
Expected publication: May 15, 2019