Book Title/Author: Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Publisher/Year: Harlequin Teen 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Other Books From Author: Saving June
I received this from the publisher at BEA. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Chelsea Knot is popular and she can’t keep a secret — always blabbing everything she knows and spreading gossip around. The last secret she told almost got somebody killed and has turned her into the ultimate social outcast. Trying to learn from her mistake, she takes a vow of silence which alienates her even further at a time where everybody is talking about her and she’s become the target of a lot of bullying. When she meets a girl whom she would never have associated with before, she is befriended despite everything that has gone on, she realizes she might have a chance to be forgiven by people for what she did– if only she could forgive herself first.
This was my pick for book club this month and I honestly didn’t know what to expect but had heard good things about this book and Saving June. I’m pleased to report that I really liked this book and think it’s going to make for a good discussion! It delved into quite a few issues without screaming “HEY I’M AN ISSUE BOOK” and I felt like it wasn’t a complete “THIS IS WRONG AND THIS IS RIGHT” kind of book either. I felt conflicted sometimes and I liked that.
Speechless by Hannah Harrington is your ultimate “popular mean girl gets thrown from her social status and falls hard to the bottom” kind of story. We know the skeleton for this kind of story — the mean girl is cast down from the social heavens and at the mercy of all those people who she treated like dirt or ignored. Chelsea certainly gets that and more from the people who she used to be friends and with those she ignored — plus, in her case, the people close with the person who was affected most because of her gossip. I thought Hannah Harrington really made that skeleton of a story into so much more as it chronicles her downfall from queen bee status to biggest social outcast to what she finds out about herself by the end.
The thing that is always make or break for me in these kinds of stories is whether or not I feel like the “mean girl” has truly changed or if she’s just adapted — there’s a difference for me. It’s interesting with Chelsea because it’s easy to hate her early on (I did!) because she’s a serious bitch but I couldn’t help but know I would root for her at the moment that she does the RIGHT THING early on — the thing, that for her life, would be the worst thing. Not days or weeks later. Right away. For that, I already felt like I could root for her. You can FEEL how conflicted Chelsea was about her decision after she starts enduring all the harassment and bullying — it WOULD have been so much easier to not do the right thing and she THINKS that. She knows logically she did the right thing but she can’t help but truly wonder. I found that to be incredibly realistic as I’ve been in the same situation knowing that doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest, and doubting yourself, but realizing you had it to it.
I found her whole journey to be believable and real and I really felt her change was authentic — she eventually saw that, at the end of the day, she couldn’t BE like those people anymore if they couldn’t see what was wrong about the situation. Her journey isn’t perfect — she still maintains a lot of her old ways of thinking throughout a lot of it but I saw true growth and could sympathize slowly but surely. I loved how she saw all of these qualities she wanted to possess, that her old friends didn’t, through this new group of people. Her journey wasn’t easy but I loved taking it with her and watching her grow and realize who SHE is. I REALLY loved the supporting characters she makes friends with as they have so much depth and are just really great characters– Asha and the whole diner crew and of course SAM.
I’ll say I didn’t always quite understand the whole vow of silence and what it meant to her and I wasn’t even sure that she did, but I realized as the novel progressed, that was kind of the beauty of it. I don’t think she set out to do anything profound or enlightening with her vow of silence but she was just processing what happened and was her way of kind of making a sort of penance and amends even if she knew she couldn’t fix things.
Speechless was a solid read that breathes new life into the “mean girl fall from grace” plot with the way it seamlessly explores the many facets of high school experience — the fickle nature of popularity and social status, the damage of gossip, the beginnings of finding yourself in an atmosphere that wants everyone to be the same, etc. –and tackles it at a level that goes beyond the superficial surface of it all. The beauty of the novel is that, even far removed from high school, so many of these things that were explored are still so relevant to me and I appreciated thinking about them as I watched Chelsea, a character I didn’t want to like, make this genuine journey — even though the road was quite thorny. Great characters who are full of depth, a story that will captivate and full of really heartfelt messages without beating you over the head with it.
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Did you feel like her journey was genuine? Who was your favorite secondary character (I LOVE ASHA!!)