Guest Review of Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Posted August 9, 2012 by Kara in Guest Post / 15 Comments

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: This is a guest review by Heartless Lyn.

Blurb: Chelsea Knot can’t keep anything to herself. She uses the power of her gossip to gain a pass into the popular circle. So when she drunkenly shares a secret about a classmate, the result comes at a high price after the victim is brutally attacked. The aftermath of her careless decision, then her cooperation with the authorities rattles her entire world. She loses her friends, her status and her chance with her current crush. Shaken by her loss, Chelsea decides to take a vow of silence to keep from furthering the damage she has caused. Losing her voice, however, helps her gain a new found insight on who she is under the complicated layers of popularity and shallow acceptance. Chelsea soon befriends a group of students, peers that she gave little though to before her decision. As Chelsea discovers the value of people and friendship, she battles constantly bullies and the retaliation of her former popular best friend. Chelsea soon realizes what holds true value in her life as she braves the hostile environment of her former cliché at her school. After witnessing her life crumble and rebuild, Chelsea learns that not only can words can destroy, but decisions can save a life.

Review: This book could not have come to me at a better time. Speechless covers a number of important topics, each receiving an appropriate level of critique and care. The bullying mob in the book hits close to home as I watch some of my own book blogging friends deal with the aftermath of a group of slandering individuals attempting to wreak havoc in their lives. These individuals have spoken against the unfair treatment of other book lovers, and they have paid a high price for their courage. In Speechless, Chelsea battles something similar. She haphazardly shares a secret about a classmate which launches the entire plot of the book, but she also comes forward and confesses to the police when an act of violence results from her actions. She suffers the consequences and faces an ongoing battle at her school, but not because of her betrayal of the brutalized victim. When two of the popular jocks are taken into custody, resulting in Chelsea becoming a target for vandalism, she receives threats and is physically assaulted.  Because she decided to do the right thing, she pays with her personal safety.

Secondly, this book has a very solid pro-homosexual point of view.  This issue is a hotbed currently in the news, with the owner of a fast food chain, Chik-fil-a condemning gay marriage.  I won’t bring in my own political beliefs–oh, who am I kidding, I’ll never set foot inside another one of their franchises EVER again, but we cannot deny that this issue is becoming an all out war.  The book handles a gay relationship with care and tenderness, even in the face of a hate crime.  The ending of the book will make you want to laugh and cry all at once.  I had a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling during the last 15% of the story. WARNING: You’re going to need some tissues.  

Finally, the plastic nature of popularity rears its ugly head in Harrington’s novel.  Chelsea falls from grace with the majority of the school’s population because of her actions.  Over time, Chelsea understands that her friendship with her old cliché was less than fulfilling.  She overhauls her wardrobe (she hates the color pink), she delves into art and her former clothing projects, and she builds meaningful relationships with the people who accept her for who she is, not who they push her to be.  She even realizes that the side effect of her former friendships not only caused her to be forced into a mold, but she also projected the same expectations onto others.  Before her change, Chelsea expected others to conform to her expectations.  

I also applaud the author for adding that the male population can be just as cruel as the female population.  Typically in young adult novels, popular boys are utilized as props or prizes for female mean girls when popularity comes into the mix, but Hannington doesn’t let the boys off easily in this book.  The guys hand out the same level of bitter bullying tactics.  Don’t get me wrong, girls can be poisonous, but boys can be just as petty and passive-aggressive as girls.  I am glad to see an author step up and point out that both genders can be spiteful and mean.

Chelsea’s character doesn’t follow the formula here.  She loves celebrity gossip, she adores makeup over math, and she is a sucker for fashion.  She has a change of heart, but she does not shed her Gossip Girl core in favor of her inner geek.  I did not have much in common with Chelsea outside of her hair color (redheads are the BEST!), but I did like that she was a teenage girl with teenage interests. I enjoyed the fact that I could bond with her, even though she and I are two very different people. Yes, girls who enjoy sports, books, and intellectual stimulation have a right to enjoy shallow interests, but not all unpopular girls are going to be book-toting video game nerds either.  Even I enjoy reading celebrity blogs and spending money at Sephora from time to time.  Bottom line is, I liked this character for who she was and that she was comfortable being a girl.

This novel was such a beautiful tale about everything that is wrong with our teenagers.  False flattery, intolerance, sacrificing the self in order to curry favor, and the stigma of popularity and happiness is stifling for young adults.  I can recall high school, and it was not the “best of times.”  The problems I read in the book were no different than the problems from my high school years.  Cell phones and electronic communication added an extra dash of pressure into the whole stew. 

I must confess I am torn about my final decision.  Harrington develops Chelsea’s voice as she slowly starts to alter internally, and I could see a stark difference between the writing style as our main character began to change.  However, I did find that some of the flow was choppy, and that the novel, at times, seemed to be rushed. Story-wise, I found this the perfect blend of morality, romance, and civil rights.  I found it pleasing that a story about a former popular white teenager became the platform for gay and civil rights. Overall, I found the story delightful and did not find the basic message overbearing in the least.
I will wrap with one of my favorite quotes (and there are A LOT of highlight-worthy trinkets in the book):

“I can’t change what I’ve done and what I haven’t done, but I can change what I do now.”

To purchase a copy of Speechless from, click here: Speechless (Harlequin Teen).

Thanks for the wonderful review, Lyn!!

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15 responses to “Guest Review of Speechless by Hannah Harrington

  1. Man, this sounds like a pretty high-concept book. I was a bit of a gossip as a teen – heck, I’m still a gossip now. I love telling stories and sometimes gossip can really become a part of that. I love the idea of a popular girl deciding to take a vow of silence to try and better herself after making a terrible mistake. I’ll definitely be keeping this book on my radar.

  2. Wonderful review! I just finished reading it myself and I loved it and like you, the themes that exuded from it were what truly made it so special. Plus, I loved Chelsea’s narrative voice and the honest portrayal of all the characters was so realistic! I’m glad you enjoyed this! 😀

    Ivy Book Bindings

  3. This sounds really good, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Lyn. I like that the character still liked some of the same things even as she begins to change. I always think it rings false when a character completely overhauls themselves, or when a book implies that a certain way is so much better than another.

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