Friday, February 5, 2016

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Chelsea doesn't really stop and think about the words that come out of her mouth, they just suddenly appear in her mind and come out of mouth.  People have gotten used to the fact that she can't keep a secret, but Chelsea knows it's just part of who she is - it's not like anyone has died because she couldn't keep a secret.  At a party one night Chelsea stumbles (literally) upon a juicy bit of news and rushes off to tell her best friend Kristen, and ends up telling more than just Kristen.  Chelsea's juicy gossip results in one badly beaten teenage boy, a statement to the police, and instantly becoming the social pariah of her school and the former friend of everyone who was her friend before.  

Isolated and remorseful Chelsea takes a voluntary vow of silence, refusing to speak at school or at home.  Some of her teachers roll with the idea, albeit a little reluctantly, while others seem determined to punish her until she stops acting out.  At home her parents are worried about her and want her to get professional help - and if they knew about the harassment and backstabbing at school they would insist on it even more.  Into this brave new world comes a new friend from an unexpected source, and Chelsea comes to understand more about herself and the defining features of life "before" and life "after".  Chelsea has a lot to learn about herself, and for the first time in her life her voice is silent and instead of talking she is listening - and learning.

I started following Harlequin teens on Instagram recently and there was a photo of several of their books and one of them was Speechless - and when I looked it up I just knew it was a story I had to try.  I have very eclectic taste in books (as you may have noticed) although I am a sucker for a good fantasy, science fiction, crime, or real life reads that make you stop and think.  Speechless could have so easily gone badly, it could have been preachy or idealistic, but instead it is a book that feels very genuine and realistic.  Chelsea is far from perfect at the beginning and she is no angel in the end, but over the course of the novel she goes on a very realistic journey of soul searching and discovering who she really is when she is by herself rather than being Kristen's best friend.  

There are a lot of topics here that are suitable for class room study, but most of all it is a gripping, gritty and engaging read.  Chelsea is the focus of the story, but through her eyes and her experiences we get to see a microcosm of high school life where the queen bee rules through manipulation and social control (don't the always), the ruling elite get to decide who is "in" and who is "out", and teenagers can discover that they don't have to be one of the sheep to survive high school.  This is one of those rare reads for teens that is confronting and makes you think and get involved with the story, but it doesn't shove messages down your throat or resort to gratuitous sex and/or swearing.  There is some swearing here, but it is natural language and adults just have to accept that!  A thoroughly good read, and I am now waiting for a copy of Saving June so I can see if it is as good (or better) than Speechless.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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