"Fast paced, suspenseful, magnetic, and meaningful . . . Will provoke much discussion."School Library Journal
A shattering teen novel by Eve Bunting, now in a new paperback edition
"Fast paced, suspenseful, magnetic, and meaningful . . . Will provoke much discussion."School Library Journal
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.50(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.36(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
IT WAS SATURDAY the 20th of June at 11:30 P.M. when my brother, Bry, was killed. I’ll never forget that date, not if I live to be an old, old man. Coast Highway, shadowed between its tall pole lights, the car suddenly behind Bry and me as we walked single file in the thick grass at the highway’s edge. The glare of its white beams; the roar as it passed me where I’d dived sideways, belly down; the thud as it hit him. I’ll never forget it.
We were on our way home from a party at Wilson Eichler’s house and I’d just met Wilson’s sister, Chloe, the girl Bry liked. I was walking along there behind my brother, thinking about Chloe, about the way she’d looked in that white minidress with her smooth brown arms and long brown legs. I was wishing Bry hadn’t already told me he liked her. I was wishing the Eichlers had moved into the Sapphire Cove house before, last year when I was here in high school instead of this year when I was up at UCLA. I’d never laid eyes on Chloe until tonight, and tonight was too late. Maybe she wasn’t exactly Bry’s girl, but she was the girl Bry liked. That was enough right there to stop my giving her a second thought. So why was I? Cut it out, Jesse. Just cut it out.
Those were the things I was thinking.
Bry was in front of me. Levi’s and a denim jacket, brown loafers that were almost identical to mine. Bry thinks I know about things like clothes because I’m older. I was smiling to myself at how long and skinny he was, and how loose he walked, when the too-bright car lights lit up the sky ahead of us. I spun around, saw their blank gleam heading right at us, and I yelled to Bry to jump. I was still yelling as I dived deep into the knee-high grass. Still yelling as the car hit him.
It tossed him into the air, and in slow motion he smashed down on the hood, the car swerving toward the center line, careening back, Bry sliding off into the middle of the highway. The car stopped. I thought the door opened on the driver’s side. There was some kind of pause while I lay there in the sudden silence, not believing, knowing I was dreaming, dreaming some awful nightmare dream. Then the car leaped forward again.
More traffic was coming. I could hear it on the highway, and I thought it would hit Bry, toogo over him like some dead, furry animal squashed on the road. I jumped up and ran screaming to stand in front of where Bry lay so still and quiet, waving my arms, pointing down and waving. There was a shriek of brakes as the car stopped.
“Holy cow!” a man’s voice said. “What the . . . ?” His head poked out of the driver’s window but I was kneeling beside Bry now, with his head in my lap, knowing without anybody telling me that he was dead.
Other cars came. A bunch of teenagers piled out of one and a woman in a camper pulled over on the beach side of the road and gave me a blanket to put over Bry. I put it across his front, which was covered with a wet darkness, but I didn’t put it over his face. I stroked his hair. Bry has the worst hair. It sticks up in back and I tried to make it lie down. The man from the camper said he was going to a call box, but the lady would stay with me. I think he must have put out flares, or somebody did, because I saw their orange sizzle and smelled their smoky smell. Bry’s head was heavier against me than a head should be, and cars were edging around us now, making the traffic back up, with gawkers leaning out of the windows. A guy was even standing up through his sunroof.
I told Bry not to worry about them. One of his legs was bent funny, and it was important to straighten it. But I couldn’t reach. His shoe was gone.
Sirens were coming now, high and shrill above the slap-slap of the waves on the beach on the other side of the highway.
“We live just down the road,” I told the woman, or I thought I did. “We live in one of the Del Mar trailers, up on the second row. My brother and I were walking on the other side, facing the traffic, and we’d crossed over, because we were almost home. We shouldn’t have crossed over.” I was babbling, jerking the words out.
“Sh!” the woman said. “It wasn’t your fault. You were right up on the grass, off the road. That driver must have been drunk as a skunk.”
“Just down there,” I said again. “That’s where we live.”
Later the police asked me all kinds of questions, mostly about the car. What had I seen? Had it slowed? Stopped? Could I remember anything about the way it looked?
We were in Laguna Hills Hospital by then, Mom and Dad and I. We were in a little room that was like an office with carpet on the floor. Bry was somewhere in the hospital, too, probably laid out on one of those steel tables in a cold, blank room with a label around his toe. That’s the way it is on TV.
My dad sat at one end of the couch and my mom at the other. There was enough room between them for me, but I stood back against the wall.
“It was just a car,” I told the officer. “It was black, maybe, or some dark color. After it . . . after it hit him it went on for a bit and then stopped and then went on. No, I couldn’t see the driver. No, I didn’t see if there was a passenger. It happened too fast. I don’t know.”
I didn’t know anything except that Bry was dead.
There was a policeman and a policewoman. Neither of them wore uniforms. The woman had on a navy skirt and a pink knit shirt with crossed tennis rackets on the left pocket. Her face was covered with old acne scars, and she’d told us her name was Officer Valle. The guy was Officer McMeeken. He wore a blue T-shirt and cords.
“So what you’re saying, Jesse . . . the car came round that curve on the highway too fast and too close and you and your brother were clear in, on the grass next to the wire.” He was reading back what he’d written already in a black notebook. “And you jumped, and you shouted to him to jump, but he didn’t hear you. Why was that, Jesse? How far ahead would you say Bry was?”
My father broke in. “Bryan is deaf. Was . . . was deaf. He couldn’t have heard Jesse shout.”
“Oh.” The policeman studied his notebook too carefully. “I’m sorry.” “And I shouted before I jumped myself,” I said. Not that it mattered. But they should get it right. I took the wet, wadded mess of tissues from my pocket and tried to peel one off, tried not to let my mind slide to where it had been a hundred times already tonight. Could I have grabbed Bry in time? Could I have pulled him with me? How far ahead had he been? “Now, students, let’s consider question number 32: If a car is approaching from the rear at seventy miles an hour and there is a distance of . . .” I got a piece of Kleenex pulled away and blew my nose. There hadn’t been time. I’d never have made it. I heard again the awful thud, saw the car stop, saw . . . saw what? Something else that made my heart leap. What? I stared into space.
“I know this is painful for you, Jesse,” Officer Valle said, and I wanted to tell her to be quiet, to let me think. But whatever had been there had slid away again, beyond my memory. “We really need to go over this again as quickly and as often as possible, while it’s still fresh in your mind. You were at a party in the Eichler house at 2235 Sapphire Cove?”
“Yes.” The house where Chloe lived.
“When the party was over, you and Bry decided to walk home.”
They were all looking at me.
“Yeah. Jim Lugar gave us a ride to the Eichlers’. He’s in school with Bry. The Eichler house isn’t that far, but Jim was driving so he picked us up anyway and he was going to bring us back.” I glanced at her and quickly away.
“Now let me get the geography straight here. Sapphire Cove is a community on the bluff, south of your trailer park and on the other side of the highway?”
“Right. And Clambake Point is at the end of Sapphire Cove Road.”
Copyright © 1988 by Eve Bunting
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
Meet the Author
EVE BUNTING has written over two hundred books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz, The Wall, Fly Away Home, and Train to Somewhere. She lives in Southern California.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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June 20th on Coast Highway in Southern California, Jesse and Bry are walking home when a drunk driver hits Bry and then runs. Bry couldn't hear the car coming because he is deaf. Jesse is very depressed and angry about it. There was little evidence to who committed the hit and run. Sowbug, a homeless man, saw who killed Bry, but doesn't want to get in trouble for sleeping on the beach. One of Jesse's neighbors saw a drunk driver on the road that night, but doesn't know who it was. Jesse and one of Bry's friends, Chloe, hang up signs to see if anyone saw anything that could be useful. At a surf event Jesse decides to go to, a riot starts on the beach. Chloe steps on broken glass, and Jesse takes her to the hospital. On the way, they see a man who keeps lurking around, so Jesse decides to investigate. He finds out the man is named Joseph Plum and often drinks and drives. Joseph isn't sure if he killed Bry or not. Eventually, they figure out Joseph doesn't have the right kind of car to be the killer. Once Jesse finally drives Chloe home, he realizes who killed his brother. Read the book to find out more! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries, sad stories, or stories about getting through tough times. This is because the whole concept of dying is very depressing. There is a big mystery about who killed Bry that is very suspenseful too. Lastly, Jesse has a very hard thing to get through, and it takes finding Bry's killer to get through it.
"What If" Bry and Jesse had taken the proper way home after the party? "What If" they'd only have stayed on the correct side of the road until they reached the underpass? Instead, Bry sees a clearing in the traffic near their development and runs across the road. Shortly after that, a speeding car comes from behind, catching them unawares. Jesse yells out to Bry to get out the way. But Bry is deaf and never heard the warning, nor probably ever knew the car hit him. Until it was too late.
Jesse is full of regrets from the moment he darted out of the way without grabbing his brother and pulling him to safety. But no one has blamed Jesse that it was his fault. Instead, Jesse is determined to do everything he can to find the driver who so carelessly hit Bry and then drove off into the night without helping.
A SUDDEN SILENCE has been reissued after twenty years. The story is still as relevant today as it was in 1988 when it was first published. Ms. Bunting writes a sad story of one brother's quest to find justice for his younger brother who was killed too soon. Jesse is a normal teenager who has to deal with survivor's guilt, as well as the not-knowing of who killed his brother. With the help of Bry's friend, Chloe, Jesse puts the pieces together to help the police solve the crime. In the end, though, Ms. Bunting makes the reader realize that the conclusions we come to may not make it any easier for everyone involved.
This story is a must-read for teens thinking about drinking and driving. Many fail to realize that the dangers may not always be to the drunk driver, but instead to the innocent people who had nothing to do with the alcohol.
This book is a wonderfully thought out detective story abut Jessie Harmon's quest to bring his deaf brother's killer to justice. If you enjoy mystery and suspense this is you'r kind of book. Thanks Mrs. Johnson for introducing this book to us!!!!!!!!!!
I do not usually read books but i was forced to for a school project. Suprisingly, I enjoyed reading the book A 'Sudden Silence'. The author gave a nice twist to the ending. I read it in a day easily and without getting bored.
This book was very great between the indepth descriptions and suspensful writting. This book i finished in 3 days. I could not put this book down. Strongly, strongly recommend this bbok. Kevin,12,NH
It was a good teen read, a little depressing
it was really suspenful and it was a really good mystery i recommend it for mystery readers
The novel 'A Sudden Silence' is brilliant.The way the author describes his authors by their personalities, really gives you a 'mind-movie' of the story. I enjoyed it.
I usually dont read books but when we started reading this book in class I kind of got into it.I thought it wouldnt be that great and it turned out to be better than i thought.I think they should write more books like this to tell/teach kids about things lke violence,drinking,etc.
This book is very good and suspenseful and I slept through half of it and i liked the other half!
The book A Sudden Silence by Eve Bunting was excelent. This book shows a lot of courage, braver, and hope. The book would leave you hanging and you would just have to continue with it. It was an absolutly marvolous book.