Laurie Plissner’s Louder Than Words is a fantastic debut for the older young adult audience. Plissner’s writing style is witty, modern, and touching. With the barest hint of the paranormal, Plissner manages to engage her reader with a smart and grieving protagonist, and a climax that will take the reader’s breath away.
Plissner’s characters are well-rounded and realistic. Sasha, the protagonist, deals with the loss of her family through an extreme form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder called selective mutism. Though her body chooses a rare form of PTSD, her grieving process appears natural for someone who has lost her entire immediate family. Plissner’s words, as she leads the reader through Sasha’s troubled thoughts, are powerful and raw.
The paranormal aspect of the novel is understated. Ben, Sasha’s romantic interest, is a mind reader with an antiquated morality code, while his mother is more aware of the world around her than most.
But Plissner does not bog down her story with winded explanations of why her characters are so supernaturally inclined. By omitting the usual lengthy description of why a character can do something unusual, Plissner is trusting her readers to just accept her story and enjoy the ride.
Louder Than Words has a touch of sensuality that makes it more appropriate for an older young adult audience. The chemistry that Sasha and Ben have is evident in their frisky actions, but it is slightly dramatic and unrealistic. But then again, Ben is a boy who can read minds, and Sasha is a depressed teenager. They’re not exactly a conventional pair.
Perhaps the most addicting part of Plissner’s debut is the mystery surrounding Sasha. The reader can’t help but dissect everyone Sasha encounters, and everything she learns once she decides to pursue the truth behind her family’s death. All of her sleuthing and attempts at regaining some semblance of a normal life lead to a surprising conclusion.
Plissner’s success in creating a powerful ending comes from the fact that she slowly builds up to it, throwing the reader a proverbial bone with every chapter, either leading him/her astray, or hinting at the obvious truth that sits in plain sight.
With an outspoken protagonist, and a quickly paced romantic relationship, Plissner’s novel touches on more than just the mystery of the novel. Sasha’s world explores the troubles teenagers face growing up, the dangers of the naive world they tend to inhabit, and the complexities surrounding hormones. All of these aspects make Louder Than Words more of a contemporary read, rather than a supernatural romance novel.
Older teens who like reading books about teenagers who overcome seemingly impossible odds, pretentious boys who steal girl’s hearts, or just a hint of the supernatural in fiction, will most likely enjoy Louder Than Words.
Witty and unapologetic, Plissner’s novel is a realistic representation of the teenage world: imperfect and complicated.