Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: young adult contemporary, realism, some romance
Format/Source: DRC from Edelweiss
Status: Standalone

Disclaimer: I was given this DRC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.
Of course when a book is about a teen not speaking, you're going to compare it to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I did it too. No worries. No judgement. However, Speechless is different because whereas Speak was about a girl protesting her own sexual assault, the lead character in Speechless is simply attempting to control her own mouth after her words lead to an assault on a boy after a party. Her words also lead to the arrest of two of her "friends" for said assault, but she's not protesting those.

So Chelsea is not a very sympathetic or likeable protagonist at first. She's selfish, she's rude, she lacks all self control. Mostly, she's just a puppet for her utterly horrific "best friend" Kristen. I mean, this is basically Mean Girls, you guys, with Kristen as Regina George and Chelsea as post-Halloween Cady Heron. But the low where Chelsea starts the novel makes her triumphant growth of character that much more interesting to read about and more meaningful. Does she start low? Well, socially, Chelsea's number two on the high school food chain, but both she and Kristen are shockingly morally bankrupt. I mean it. That's a bad thing to say, but they're awful. Chelsea quickly falls after the disastrous New Year's Party, but then spends the remainder of the novel fighting for her redemption. It's awesome because Chelsea always knows she's not fighting to get back to her old position, her old friends; she realizes she's struggling for something else and not sure what exactly that is.

Luckily, there are the character guides to help her in the form of oddball freshman Asha and dreamy best-friend-of-the-guy-Chelsea-inadvertantly-put-in-the-hospital Sam. Whew! And you thought YOU had it bad in high school! Asha is fairly quick to adopt Chelsea because she accepts that Chelsea is trying to change and Asha is willing to give her that opportunity, while Sam and the rest of their coworkers are a bit more skeptical. Hey, Chelsea's redemption would also not be meaningful if she didn't have to work for it. Asha is a great character. I always adore the quirky and lovable secondaries, and she is no exception. Asha is one of those people that life has kind of kicked to the curb, but those people always look on the bright side and make everyone around them do the same. You know who I'm talking about. And Sam. Oh, Sam. He's the ultimate Good Guy. Morally balanced. Artistic. Kind. Forgiving. Pretty much the polar opposite of the reprehensible sex offenders at their school.

Please note that I say sex offenders. Not future sex offenders. The characters Derek and Lowell sexually harrass Chelsea in truly horrifying ways. Verbal harrassment is still harrassment, and nobody ever stands up to them--except Sam. And, eventually, Chelsea in defense of another bullied classmate. This crap really pisses me off. I wish I'd been more aware of bullying and harrassment as a teen because this nonsense is NOT okay. Chelsea's teachers are too busy bullying her as well to notice the abuse her classmates are slinging her ways. I'm sorry, guys, but when one of your students changes SO DRASTICALLY, there is something wrong. And it's not like the incident was unknown either. Her teachers should have been standing with her. But I digress. Most of the other characters at school were either guilty bystanders allowing abuse or participating, which makes all of them terrible in my opinion.

Anyway, Speechless is a really good book. I highly recommend. I think books about bullying of all kinds need to be encouraged so that people can educate themselves. Not only is this book educational in that regard, but it's just a good read. Chelse finds something about herself, a not-so-good quality, and makes a concerted effort to change. It's not easy. I mean, the girl even makes a stand against speech when she's listening to music in her car! I would lose my vow of silence 10 minutes after starting on that fact alone. I find Chelsea's journey toward being a better person pretty inspirational, and I hope you would too.

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About the Author:
Hannah Harrington is a 25-year-old born and bred Michigander. She grew up in the town of East Grand Rapids before later moving to the Lansing area, where she currently resides with three cats and a black labrador, all of whom are named after famous musicians.

She wrote her first book at age nine, a stunning, forty-page Call of the Wild/Black Beauty ripoff ode to her dead dog. She later attempted her second at fourteen (by longhand), but failed miserably. She got the idea for Saving June during the summer after high school, while living out of her car and working as a pizza cook. It wasn't until she was twenty-one that she decided to write a story around the scenes she'd scribbled into a notebook years before.

Saving June, Hannah's first novel, was published by Harlequin Teen in 2011. Her next novel, Speechless, was released in the US on August 28th, 2012.

When she isn't busy writing like a crazy person, Hannah enjoys horseback riding, arguing about politics, watching documentaries, playing guitar (very badly), and speaking about herself in the third person.

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