Initial Thoughts: I could say something completely cliche like “Speechless” left me speechless, but that’s rather inaccurate and couldn’t be further from the truth. Hannah Harrington’s novel made me want to climb on rooftops and declare its awesomeness. Wonderfully constructed characters in a beautifully written novel – and it manages to be funny in spurts while tackling some very tough issues.
One of the best reads in YA I’ve read this year.
Full Review: “Speechless” is Hannah Harrington’s second novel and the first that I’ve had the opportunity to read from her. It’s one of those novels that completely blew me away in the spectrum of YA contemporary fiction, because it not only tackles a very tough subject with sensitivity and resolve, but also manages to be funny and have characters that genuinely leap from the page and come into their own as the novel progresses.
The story revolves around a high school student named Chelsea Knot, who would be aptly considered an “it” girl at her school – very popular, very chatty, engaged in the latest juicy gossip. Her gift of gab (or curse as one might put it) has enabled her to climb to the top of the social ladder. I’ll admit that I wasn’t endeared to Chelsea because of how she uses her gossip to pull strings and manipulate others into doing what she wants.
But goodness does she get a reality check. At a party, Chelsea’s observance and subsequent spilling of details leads to a horrible event which ends up with one in the hospital, and two football players in the center of evens. Chelsea’s devastated, and ultimately, she ends up doing the right thing by telling the truth of the event, but she becomes alienated by others in two measures – being the causation of the incident, and ultimately “ratting out” those that were directly responsible for it. So she’s ostracized and put into a position where no one likes her at school or are at least cautious about her in the community. And her actions have consequences that reach far beyond and within her circles.
Believing fully that her telling ways were the fault of things, Chelsea takes a vow of silence, and moves to change herself in the process. She befriends some unlikely people (Sam and Asha as per example) who wouldn’t have walked in her social circles prior to her vow of silence, and is alienated by people whom she used to be associated with, even called her best friend at one point. The characters are very well crafted, and I felt they were easy to identify with – it’s easy to connect with their grief, humor, and overall interactions with each other. Even Chelsea, who does have her noted flaws, becomes someone that the reader can sympathize with as they watch her transformation in her vow of silence. I’m in awe of how well Harrington treats her grief, guilt, and gradual coming to terms and moving forward.
I couldn’t put this book down when I read it and loved every moment. I would highly recommend this novel for those who like YA contemporary coming of age stories, with elements of romance, humor, a wonderful look into its tough subject matter and GLBT issues. It’s a beautifully written work and I would no doubt look into Harrington’s other works.
Overall score: 5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin/HarlequinTeen.