E.L. Konigsburg's writing has been migrating in style and subject matter; her latest work. Silent to the Bone, is ample proof of that. It's also proof that she can write anything she wants to. It is an excellent and intense book that explores family, friendship, love, and lies with Konigsburg's accustomed skill and intelligence.
The main character and narrator is Connor. Branwell, Connor's best friend, has been accused of seriously injuring his baby sister Nikki, and has been unable to speak since she was hurt. Connor visits Branwell in the detention center, where he realizes that he must first learn to communicate with his friend and then learn what really happened to Nikki. Connor is a very intelligent kid, but still real and fully-fleshed. In fact, the main characters of this book - Connor, Branwell, the au pair, and Connor's sister - are all very well developed, as are the relationships between them.
Although the subject is rather grim, the book itself is not. The primary focus is actually Connor's detective work, the ways in which he goes about discovering what happened both in Branwell's house and in Branwell's head. The plot is gripping and believeable, and the truths - about Branwell's sister, but many others as well - unfold naturally, without calling attention to themselves. Although Konigsburg rarely makes blatent statements about emotions or complex relationships - people mostly don't, after all - she makes everything clear to the reader. The family relationships, for example, are for the most part background, but so perfectly drawn that they are easy to see and understand.
Although it's very different from her early works, like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Silent to the Bone is every bit as good. It's certainly better than The View from Saturday, which was a Newbery book. I would suggest that it is more of a YA book, for a slightly older audience than the age range suggests. A nine-year-old could read and enjoy this, but he'd have to be a fairly mature one.
SIAS: Average boy uses wits, compassion, and help from sister to uncover the truth, protect the helpless, and save the day. (Ands: 2, cliches: 3, ranking: ?)
(And a side note: *what* is with Konigsburg's obsession with the word epiphany?)