Happy Book Birthday to Hannah Harrington’s Speechless
SYNOPSIS: 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.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up Hannah Harrington’s Speechless at BEA this year. I was drawn to the minimalistic cover (Harlequin Teen has an amazing art department) and the description on the back. But just like the plain white cover, the synopsis does not really prepare you for what is inside.
Chelsea Knot is one of the most popular girls in school, second in command to Kristen Courteau, a Regina George-esque mean girl. Harrington does a great job showing how tenuous high school relationships between girls can be. Chelsea struggles to keep up with and impress her best friend Kristen, which leads to her blurting out information at a New Year’s party that lands one of her classmates in the hospital and leads to her becoming a target of the popular kids she once considered friends.
Speechless reads like a diary, we are given access to Chelsea’s fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams–even if she doesn’t readily share them with friends and family. To be honest, Chelsea is not a likable character at the beginning of the novel, but she is wholly believable. Typical of many high school girls, Chelsea allows her insecurities to get the best of her and allows herself to be molded by her friends, often to her detriment. The highlight of the book, for me, is Asha, a huge personality in a small and quiet exterior. It is through Asha’s patience and acceptance that Chelsea is able to grow.
Far from being preachy or cliché, Harrington has crafted a story that will touch any of us who have ever had to harrow high school or accept the repercussions of a painful choice. It’s a story that reminds us how powerful our words can be and the inherent danger in acting without first thinking. But it is also a tale that illustrates that illustrates the light that inevitably follows the dark. While there are certainly moments of tension, pain, and anger, Speechless is not without a healthy dose of humor, tenderness, and even romance.
Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak
and Lauren Myracle’s Shine
will love Speechless,
this is a well-told coming of age tale, one that I’d recommend to anyone who is in or has ever been in high school.