By the end of SPEECHLESS, readers truly care about Chelsea and her life. This is a complete 180 from the beginning, when Chelsea is a supremely unlikable character. Chelsea would fit right in with the popular crowd from the movie Mean Girls, living it up at the top of the social pyramid with her friends and trash-talking everyone around her. After her fall, a lot of her peers thought she got what was coming to her. After all, "everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret." In a way, Chelsea reminds me a lot of Samantha Kingston from Lauren Oliver's award-winning BEFORE I FALL. Both Chelsea and Sam are easy to dislike, and it's hard to care about their plight. They both learn hard lessons about the consequences of their actions and become stronger, kinder characters along the way. This particularly shines through in SPEECHLESS because Chelsea must make amends with the friends of the student who was the victim of her words, especially as she realizes how much she likes them.
It's interesting to see the way Chelsea's words and actions change her life. She even takes a vow of silence after reading an article in National Geographic, which fuels more teasing at school from students who don't understand. I know from personal experience that long-term silences (even with just one person) are hard, especially when you want to talk, but don't know how to start things up again after going so long without. In that aspect, I connected with the book on an additional level that other readers might not. I also liked the unflinching way Harrington highlights the consequences of one's actions, the negative side of bullying, and the benefits that come from sticking up for your beliefs and doing what's right. SPEECHLESS is a powerful addition to the teen genre and should be read by teens of all ages, forcing them to consider thinking before they speak.