August 22, 2012

Early Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Format: ARC (NetGalley)
Release Date: August 28, 2012
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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 know SPEECHLESS by Hannah Harrington isn't one of those love-ridden, fantasy YA books  I am fond of reading. Going into this book, I know that Chelsea Knot's story is going to be a well-rounded emotional tale about bullying, peer pressure, bigotry and a bunch of kids who should know and act better. I wasn't disappointed, I was sad, horrified, annoyed, empathetic, sympathetic and a slew of other emotions washed over me throughout the 288 paged story. I ended up interrogating my son if he's being bullied, is he's a bully and preaching about the perils of being one.
Keeping secrets isn't my specialty.
In a nutshell, Chelsea is THE lady-in-waiting to Queen Bee, Kristen Courteau, and keeping that position wasn't an easy task much less a harmless one. Throughout Chelsea's reign as Kristen's BFF, she's slandered countless people in exchange for friendship and popularity. Until one party changed everything and Chelsea's social status crumbled to dust. Under the influence of alcohol, Chelsea walked in on two of her classmates, Noah and Andy, making out and outed them for their sexual preference by accident... or habit. This little harmless info turned into a hateful episode that sent Noah to the hospital after two jocks beat him up to a pulp. Chelsea, with her parent's help, called the police and reported the crime which sent two of Chelsea's friends to jail and instantly made her the most hated person in their school. Filled with remorse, Chelsea took a vow of silence and for the next thirty days we witness her attempt to make amends and repent for her past mistakes. But can Chelsea prove that action does speak louder than words?
I keep wondering how far this will go. Messing with my locker, messing with my car, verbal intimidation--what's next? Cutting my brakes? Roughing me up in the parking lot?
A vow of silence is a very principled sacrifice and anybody who goes into this willingly and manage to pull it off is someone worthy of admiration. There are retreats that does this in real life and I think I will lose my mind if someone asks me to surrender my voice especially when I'm under close scrutiny and in a defensive position. Though this is a work of fiction, HHarrington didn't go off the rails to prove her point, she didn't turn it into a moral issue nor did she preach about the perils of gossiping and sexual discrimination. The situations she presented were realistic and I am saddened that at this day and age, things like this still happens in the real world. People are judged for what they are instead of who they are inside and it's really shocking that this violence is coming for young people who are supposed to be more educated on the evolution of people and society. I guess we are still cavemen at heart and that savage DNA still manages to dominate us once in a while.
--but when I said I have something to prove, I didn't mean only to the kids at school. I have something to prove to myself. That I'm not who everyone thinks I am.
What shocked me were the examples of bullying Chelsea's peers are doing to her to push her out of their circle, punishing her for doing the right thing. Hating her because she sent two popular boys to jail for beating up a defenseless person all because he's gay. This is my greatest fear as a parent, bullying is not a myth and for it to happen to a teenager is more than a nightmare. I remember when I was Chelsea's age, I was in the process of discovering myself, eager to stand out and finding my own unique identity on top of school, family and peer pressure. To cap it off with this constant harassment is sure to provoke any person, young or old, to fight back and retaliate. Not that Chelsea hasn't been tempted to get revenge, she did get it in the end but she did it the smart way.
Hate is too easy. Love takes courage.
SPEECHLESS is a book EVERY school and public library should have, every parent and child should read this together. English teachers SHOULD require their students to read Chelsea's story. The events that HHarrington shared isn't fantasy, these kinds of bullying does happen and every person should be educated about the wrongfulness of such an act. If discrimination is inevitable then let's discriminate on issues like this, preying and exploiting the weak, and not about someone's religion, race, color and sexual preference. Respect should be universal and I think SPEECHLESS is a very good example of this.


  1. oh wow great review, Braine! This one looks to be an emotional story. And it always saddens me to read about high school kids and what how vicious they can be to one another. It's sad that just because someone is "popular" they should be able to get away with doing bad things. I will look forward to reading this the next time I'm in a YA mood.

    Ning @ Reading by Kindle Fire

    1. I know there will be stereotypes but Hannah really wrote a very good story. I have yet to meet a teenager who can shut his/her mouth for a day let alone a month! My son can sometimes talk my ear off and maybe I'll challenge him to do this one of these days LOL.

  2. I liked this one, no LOVED it because it seemed like a pretty straightforward contemp that turned out to be so much more.

    The bullying is pretty shocking, but unfortunately not that far-fetched. If something similar had happened in my school 10 years ago (ok, more than 10), I can see exactly the same situation being pretty close to reality.

    It even made ME think about how sometimes I can say things that perhaps just make a situation worse!


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