Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Hannah Harrington has been a unique and fierce presence in the world of YA. Her first book, Saving June, was a pretty exceptional debut for me. I had high expectations going into her second book and I was not let down.

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. (Goodreads.com)

Lately, all I have been looking for in a book is a story that grips me and doesn't let go. Something I'm not starting, stopping, starting over and over again through the course of a week. Speechless delivered that in spades. Chelsea is not quite likable at the beginning. She hangs out with a girl, her supposed best friend, who is not very nice to put it mildly. But then, neither is Chelsea. Let's put the blame where it belongs and a lot it belongs with Chelsea. Her gossip has always egged her friends on but this time, it goes too far and a young man is beaten and put in the hospital. Fortunately, Chelsea does something about it. She does not really dither either which I appreciated. She clearly saw that the actions of her "friends" were wrong on every degree and that they were guilty of the hate crime. So she turns them in. And then, the tide turns against her and Chelsea takes her vow of silence.

I realize the basis of this book, Chelsea's vow of silence, actually seems to desensitize what Noah, the victim, goes through, but I believed in it because I thought it changed Chelsea for the better. She has to confront what her own behaviors have led to at school. She has made a lot of enemies and people are not afraid to show her what they think of her unfortunately. Chelsea goes through her own cycle of abuse by her classmates and it is very awful bullying and hatred.

I will say, the one thing this book didn't really need was a romance. As you all know, I love romances, but in this case I think again, it took away from the power of Chelsea's vow of silence and of the beating of Noah. I liked Sam but more than anything, I liked the healthy relationships Chelsea started to get involved with. New friendships, a job, and more. I liked the great relationship Chelsea had with her parents also. They are involved in her life, question her vow of silence, and face some hard realities of their own because Chelsea turned in the people who beat Noah. But this was handled really well and I think Hannah Harrington is aces at creating credible parent/child relationships.

After re-reading this review, it may seem like I had more complaints than anything else about this book but let me reiterate, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I think teens are going to really relate to Chelsea's sudden social outcast status and I can only hope they will have great empathy for what Noah is going through. There is a lot of great social commentary within the pages of this book but it's done in a way that does not read as preachy. Chelsea is not perfect and she never will be but she works to make amends in her life and to try a different path. I read this book in one sitting and it was worth every minute of sleep I missed. It's a quick read though and you'll probably fly through the pages like me.

So basically, this book was one of my few recent reads that broke me out of my reading slump. That takes power and it takes great storytelling skill and Hannah Harrington has just that. Great storytelling and great characters.

Speechless is available now from Harlequin Teen! Be sure to watch the intense book trailer.

Other reviews:
Anna Reads reviews Speechless
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf reviews Speechless
Katie's Book Blog reviews Speechless

Harlequin Teen is doing something really cool with Speechless. They have a really great campaign as part of this book's release that touches on the current bullying situation so many students are facing.

Harlequin TEEN has partnered with the nonprofit Love is Louder to help use the power of young adult literature to take a stand against bullying. In September, the Speechless Action Kit will go live on the Love is the Louder site (www.loveislouder.com/speechless) and will use the novel to provide ideas for activities and events that promote the anti-bullying movement. The goal of this partnership is to help make a difference in the lives of teens, one student at a time.

I love when books make a commitment to a project like this. Be sure to visit Love is Louder and show your support for Speechless.

Now for something equally exciting! I have the chance to offer 2 copies of Speechless, open to US and Canadian residents only. This contest ends on Sunday, September 16, 2012, at 10:00PM CST. All you have to do to enter is click the link below and fill out the form.

ARC from ALA 2012.


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