Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington (ARC)

Speechless by Hannah Harrington
HarlequinTeen, 263 Pages
US Release Date: August 28, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher at ALA Annual 2012 (thanks HarlequinTeen!)

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.
------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote

It's too easy to confuse friendship with something more. Especially when you're looking for it.
While I don't think it's a big deal and it doesn't necessarily give away anything else to the book if you know what it is she blabs, I'm aware that some people won't want to know going in. If you are one of those people, DO NOT READ ANY FARTHER. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!**

One of my favourite things about Speechless is the emphasis it puts on words and just how powerful they are. Yes, on voice and speaking, but at the core, it's about words, and what they mean to you and about you, and just what can result from them.

Speechless focuses on Chelsea Knot and the vow of silence she takes after seeing the consequences when she opens her big mouth. We open at a new years party where she blurts out a big secret in all her drunken glory. I have no idea what I thought the secret would be when I was reading all the synopses about this book, but the moment I realized what it was that Chelsea was going to blab about that would almost get someone heart just broke in half. Gay rights are something I take incredibly, incredibly seriously. Few things will get me political or riled up, but the fight for equality is the highest on my list. Just because I will fall in love with a man does not mean I should have more rights than anyone else who falls in love, and I will battle anyone who says differently. Fiercely.

So when I understood what was going to happen when Chelsea spills the beans about seeing two guys hooking up at the party to her asshole best friend and her lunkhead boyfriend, I knew this would be a book worth reading.

Truthfully, a bit of it seemed extreme, and I got really annoyed by Chelsea sometimes. She's selfish through most of the book, and I couldn't stand her outlook. She questioned if she was right to turn in the guys who nearly killed someone! That makes me so angry. Only in retrospect can I understand why she questioned herself, and perhaps if I was still a high schooler I would have some second thoughts. But she did the right thing, and that she helped catch those awful boys? That is worth anything, and I just wanted her to see that and get over her crappy social life. I did appreciate Hannah Harrington's writing of Chelsea's indecision and questions though - it lends a whole other depth to the character and really helps the reader understand who she is. (And yes, I understand that without her doubt, there would hardly be any plot to the book. But still.)

A saw a lot of reviews talking about the vow of silence and how it seemed a bit "unreal." I can tell you that this is really a thing, and I think she wrote it perfectly. People do it, and people stick to it. One of my brother's best friend's took a vow of silence for Lent this year - not for any reason like Chelsea, but just to do it. And let me tell you: he carried around paper, white boards, and a tablet so he could write/type out orders to get food or communicate with us. It was bizarre and difficult and frustrating a lot of the times, but he stuck to it for quite awhile (he went a bit over the 40 days) - and while I don't know what he took away from it, I got quite a bit from being an outsider. The importance of communication, the meaning of words and being able to speak out and up for yourself, and choosing your battles.

Reading Speechless was kind of fun for me because I saw a lot of what we went through on the page, and I felt like I got a bit more from it. The varying responses and reactions to it, easy acceptance or outright name-calling, her own struggles with if she should talk or when to start talking again...all nailed perfectly. There's power in silence and observation, and I love that Chelsea got picked on for it. I know it's weird to like that a character was being bullied, but it really did portray such a realistic view. I hated her school though, and what horrible people most of them were. How could they be mad at her for turning in those assholes?! This is a hate crime, and they needed to face that.

But I did love the friends that came from unexpected people. I loved Asha, mostly because she reminds me of a lot of my own friends. Kind of an oddball, but totally owns it? Yes. The world (real and YA) need more of those girls. She was perfect and quietly strong, and I secretly hope she gets her own spin off book. The diner was such a fun haven, and I wish I had something like that. And I adored Andy, because his and Chelsea's eventual friendship makes so much sense.

In Saving June, Hannah Harrington's other novel (read my review here!), the characters drove the story for me. In Speechless, it's the relationships. Not just romantic, but all of them. Chelsea's twisted and poisonous friendship with Kristen (That horrible bitch. I'm not sure I've ever run across a character I hated more) that's both infuriating and completely understandable; the owners of the diner with all their employees, because I dream of having my bosses be like that; Andy and Noah, who just filled my heart with so much love and hope; Noah's outlook on the world, because even after what he goes through he can say the line "hate's too love takes courage" and make me choke from weeping in the middle of a Coffee Bean (true story).

Two relationships got me the most though. The first being Chelsea's and her parents - I love how different her mom and dad are from each other, but the support they offer their daughter in the weird, tough time is amazing. It's a strong relationship at the core, even if her mom is frustrated with her or her dad is giving her a stern voice, and it's refreshing to see that in a YA book. And of course the second relationship I loved is Chelsea and Sam, hesitant maybe-friend turned into love interest. I'm not even joking when I tell you guys there is literally one line in the book that made me go "Yes. This is when I fell in love with Sam." - there's a post it*! Sam is just...everything we want in a romantic male lead. He is quirky and nerdy and friendly and a little bit unsure of Chelsea but still offers her a lifeline, and I just want him forever. He is strong and questioning and vulnerable in all the right places, and I completely and totally believe in him.

How Chelsea breaks her silence was also perfect to me - I started wondering how it would happen about halfway through. When my friend was doing his Vow of Silence, it became this big question: how would he break it? Shouldn't it be meaningful? Doesn't it have to be some big revelation and grand epiphany about life? When you intentionally silence yourself, the pressure to speak becomes BIG. With Speechless, I worried that it would be contrived or forced, that it would wreck all the personality we find in Chelsea. But how it's done, why it's's perfect. Understated but meaningful, and, like Sam, I believe in it. Though Chelsea was never my favourite person in the book, how she broke her silence definitely made me like her lots more.

Speechless is a great book, with lots of little messages buried in one big, important one. There's humor and laughter and true friendship mixed in with the sadness and negativity, and even though sometimes the future is bleak in Chelsea Knot's world, it ultimately ends with hope and love. And that's really what I think this novel is: words and love.

*PS. Told you there was a post-it!

4.5 Stars

Speechless is also partnered with the LOVE IS LOUDER project, a movement with a fantastic message. I encourage you to check it.


  1. Alexa S.September 6, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    EEP! I really, really, really LOVED this book. It was so well-done!

  2. Elin September 6, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Love your review. Never read this, but it looks great:) Love to read this sometime:)

  3. fakestephSeptember 6, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    I really want to read this one. I don't mind that spoiler at all. I had Jen Ryland text me the spoiler after she posted her review. And now I want to read that line that made you fall in love with the love interest.

  4. UnknownSeptember 6, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    What an incredible review! I LOVED this book, and everything your review said is exactly how I felt about Speechless. EXACTLY. It's a bit frightening, I think we may have been mind-melding as we read....

    "There's power in silence and observation"

    Yes, absolutely, and that is something I took away after reading the book too. I knew very little about what Speechless was about, the synopsis was sparse, but in retrospect I am really pleased that it was a surprise to me. I was SHOCKED when I learned the secret Chelsea spilled, shocked and angry. But just as Harrington did in Saving June, all those angry feelings I had towards Chelsea shifted and transformed over the course of the book and in the end I really loved the character she grew to be. It's really something when an author can write such an unlikable character and have me loving her by the end of the book:)

    And how about that awesome cameo with Jake and Harper in the diner!

    Brilliant review, Ashley:)

  5. Christina K.September 11, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    This is a wonderful issue book. I think it's awesome they show a form of bullying from the perspective of the person who caused pain. It was so so awesome:)


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