{Review} SPEECHLESS by Hannah Harrington

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

in which
national geographic
inadvertently changes my life 

KEEPING SECRETS ISN'T MY SPECIALTY.  It never has been, ever since kindergarten when I found out Becky Swanson had a crush on Tommy Barnes, and I managed to circulate that fact to the entire class, including Tommy himself, within our fifteen minute recess--a pretty impressive feat, in retrospect.  That was ten years ago, and it still may hold the record for my personal best.

The secret I have now is so, so much juicier than that.  I'm just about ready to burst at the seams.
(Page 7, US paperback first edition)

Earlier this year, I reviewed two other books revolving around bullying getting a lot of acclaim: KEEP HOLDING ON by Susane Colasanti and THE LIST by Siobhan Vivian.  SPEECHLESS felt rougher, grittier, and more compelling to me, especially since the reason that main character Chelsea Knot is in her predicament to begin with is because of a secret blurted at an inopportune time.  Author Hannah Harrington focuses on the devastating consequences of a popular girl's fall from grace, as well as extreme bullying techniques due to the fact that she got two popular athletes into trouble with the law.  Harlequin Publishing has long been associated with frou-frou romance titles, and when I first noticed their Teen imprint, I expected more of the same.  This year, I've been pleasantly surprised with just how deep and raw and real the imprint is, steering far away from its roots.  PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry dealt with hard issues, and I gushed all over it in my review earlier this year.  SPEECHLESS also pushes boundaries, and I found it the best book revolving around school torment this year.

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.


C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This cover is so simple, yet so striking in person.  It made me stop and take notice!  At first, I didn't even realize I'd expressed interest in the title before as an ARC.

Take a look at this video for a close-up look, but I love everything about this one!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Hannah Harrington
Release Date: Out Aug. 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Received: Purchased

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.


  1. I thought the author really missed the mark with this one. The story lost a lot of its impact and importance by focusing on Chelsea. She was a bully to begin with. But the boy she hurt? Focusing on him would have been way more compelling to me, and way more interesting. Too often books focus on over privileged characters who don't really understand the meaning of being a bully.

    It's like that one boy at the end said to Chelsea: "Thank God for straight white girls sticking up for gay boys." Or something like that.

    That said, Speechless was compulsively readable, and Chelsea's voice (despite being a total mean girl, even to the end) was easy to get lost in.

    Pretty Deadly Reviews

    1. I liked that if focused on her because even though everything was of her initial creation, it showed how bullying can come in all forms. I think his story would have also been compelling, but I liked seeing the side we DON'T often see, because it also exists.


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