Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

SpeechlessBook: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 Stars

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.
"Hate is...it's too easy," he says. His face is calm, calmer than it has any right to be, his eyes not wavering from mine, like he's so completely sure of what he's saying. "Love. Love takes courage."

As cheesy as it sounds, in context it was actually very emotionally heartrending.

I can't argue that Speechless is amazing or spectacular, but I can argue that it is one of the more trustworthy books out there. It will take you on a girl's journey to becoming a better person (since the book itself has a fair amount of cheese, I decided to insert a lot into my review as well), but even better, it will make you believe that it's possible for a person to change.

The book begins with a stereotypical mean girl, someone who goes to parties, gets drunk, laughs at people as they're insulted. She's not the instigator, but the follower. Her best friend dictates what she wears, who she hangs out with, what she does. Basically, she doesn't have control of her life. And you don't like her at all. I didn't. I especially didn't like her best friend. I wanted to punch the lights out of her, especially as the story progressed.

But then something big happens. Something that I won't ruin for you guys, since it surprised me a bit. It's actually something that I could see happening in a high school. Anyway, it happens, and Chelsea (the MC), is wracked with guilt over it because of how she actually endangered someone's life. So she takes a vow of silence.

Harrington spins the silence aspect remarkably well and realistically, starting from Chelsea's difficulties with getting through to her teachers that she's serious about the vow, and the fact that she has to stand and be insulted because she can't speak for herself. It's so painful to read because of her helplessness and the terrible way that people treat her, but you know that that's what would happen if someone had committed a mistake like hers.

The interesting thing about the debacle is that it goes both sides. Chelsea's hated by the popular people because she ratted out the criminals, but she's also hated by the other side because she caused the problem. So she's stuck, and she has nowhere to go.

But then, like the summary promises, she meets people she probably would have overlooked or been contemptuous of otherwise, and she discovers they're much more forgiving, even after what she's done. It actually reminded me a bit of Sarah Dessen's work, particularly The Truth About Forever, especially the part with the diner and how she meets this motley group of people through it.

Sam is adorable. Actually, he's a bit too adorable to be real. Why aren't there boys like him at my school? Dorky but cute ones who can quote movies and books? Jeez. I wouldn't be itching to go to college if there were guys like him still in existence. Despite the impossibility of this dorky but adorable species of male, he seemed wholly real in the book, and despite Chelsea's misgivings about him and his dislike of her, both of them come around in a way that's completely believable.

Another book this reminds me of is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, in that it's also told from the point of a "bitch," and though you find it hard to like the MC, she redeems herself in the beginning. These kinds of books are always a gamble, since there's a very high chance that readers will still hate the MC regardless. However, Harrington and Oliver do a wonderful job with this. Though Chelsea becomes a better person through her experience, she still retains that snippy, bitchy aspect of herself.

I liked the multiple facets that Harrington gave to her characters, even Kristen (though I still don't like her and I would've liked her to be punched in the face, and this part could have been developed more), and I loved Asha, though she might dance the line of stereotypical. But kudos to Harrington for putting her in such an important position in the book, considering many authors' circumvention of non-white characters. In addition, I awwhed at the end with Noah and Andy, because how could you not? I think Speechless is a good example of the underlying tensions in high school, maybe even the world, and I think Chelsea's journey to self-discovery (cheeeese) is one that most people would enjoy reading.

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