The Bottom Line: A terrifying conspiracy thriller that blends real-life history with a fight for survival that is every bit as imaginative as The Hunger Games. Highly recommended.
They Became Silent (Book 2) picks up where the first installment left off, following the tragic death of a beloved civil rights leader. Violence has shaken cities across America and is subject to strictly enforced sundown curfew, with security so tight that it’s impossible to “even look out your window at nighttime.” Meanwhile, life in the nation’s first racially integrated town is substantially safer. People appear to go about their daily lives as if nothing has happened.
For football star Joseph Freeman, who once feared succumbing to a mysterious curse that caused young athletes to disappear, the first major threat to his well being is from his teacher, Mrs. Green. Long objectified by Joseph’s friends in Book 1, one of whom claims he slapped her on the ass, the tables are turned as Mrs. Green forces herself onto Joseph. Powerless, he agrees to tell no one, fearing that if word gets out that he had sex with an older white teacher, he’ll be exiled or killed.
From that moment on, author LaShawn Evans fills Joseph’s world with an incredibly meticulous sense of claustrophobic suspense. He’s immediately plunged into a web of lies and deceit, distancing himself psychologically from his inner circle. Meanwhile, the town has a new Sheriff, and he has an eerie level of control over the town’s Sweepers – faceless security forces that take over at night. Sheriff Houston calls them “the perfect soldiers,” and Joseph almost believes him – until he’s assaulted when his back is turned.
Unlike Book 1, in which nearly a decade of historical civil rights unrest was compressed into a single shocking year, Evans’ second installment begins to feel more like a work of hard sci-fi resembling The Purge, as the community is caged up every evening. But things soon get far more gruesome, as Joseph is abducted and taken to a deeply disturbing place called The Plantation, where the truth about “the curse” gradually becomes clear. To say more would be to spoil the many surprises Evans has in store for readers, The Plantation echoes The Hunger Games — with stakes that are just as deadly and even more morally repugnant. Toward the end of the book, Evans’ imaginative use of historical civil rights leaders in a fictional context continues to great effect. In addition, many of the book’s social concepts – despite being largely fictional – are rooted in some of the most brutal aspects of real-world history. Highly recommended.