Speechless is a young adult novel that focuses on Chelsea as she discovers the power of her words, what real friendship feels like, and how important tolerance really is. Rating: 5/5
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this review, let’s talk about how perfect this book cover is. You can almost tell, just by looking at it, that this book has a more serious feel to it. I think it’s brilliant, and whoever designed it is also brilliant. It’s quite a powerful book cover, and it being embossed makes it gorgeous. Okay, moving on.
Speechless is written by Hannah Harrington, author of Saving June. It follows Chelsea, the second most popular girl in school (only behind her best friend Kristen, of course), who enjoys being popular and enjoys spreading everyone’s secrets… at first. On New Year’s Eve she walks in on her classmate Noah and another boy (who we learn later on is Andy) getting it on during Kristen’s party. Drunk, and already in love with juicy secrets, Chelsea runs downstairs to tell her friend what’s going on. Kristen‘s boyfriend, Warren, and his best friend Joey end up saying some pretty homophobic stuff and end up chasing after Noah and Andy as their leaving the party. The next day we find out Noah is in the hospital because he took a hell of a beating, and it no doubt was because of Warren and Joey. Even though she knows that telling on her friends will be social suicide, she decides to go to the cops. And then she decides to take a vow of silence.
Chelsea blames herself for what happened to Noah, and so does everyone else she goes to school with. They write terrible things on her locker, she gets sexually harassed by some of Warren’s friends, and her car gets egged. I couldn’t help but feel bad for Chelsea. I mean, if I were drunk…. actually if I were sober and walked in on two people having sex – whether gay or straight – I would immediately run to my friends and tell them. Chelsea had no idea what would happen to Noah, and she meant no harm to them when she did what she did. Her going to the cops was the right thing to do, and it disgusted me that her classmates cared more about two basketball players going to jail and not being able to play, than the fact one of their classmates was in the hospital. What’s sad, though, is that the author wasn’t exaggerating. Things like this happen all the time in high school, and classmates usually have similar reactions to it. I loved that Harrington’s writing felt real and genuine, though I felt it would have been more realistic if the characters were older. They were all freshman and sophomores, and it felt strange for them to be driving and acting the way they were acting at that age.
Another great thing about this book was the character development. Often times when authors write about issues like bullying or disease they force the development of the characters because that’s what’s necessary for the story. Everything that happened to the characters shaped them in a very believable way, and none of it was rushed. The book took place over the course of a month, and that’s exactly what it read like. Chelsea started out as a complete bitch, and she really conflicted with herself in the beginning of the book. While she wasn’t talking, she still had the same attitude (at least at first) as she did when she was talking. When she started to become friends with Asha, a girl she normally would have considered a “freak”, she questioned her motives for talking to her. At first it was just to get help on her homework, but it bloomed into a real friendship. I loved that Harrington didn’t force the friendships either. At first Sam, Noah’s best friend and Chelsea’s new art partner, doesn’t really want anything to do with her, but over time he thaws. It wasn’t like, “Oh, you kind of got my best friend put into the hospital, but it’s fine. We’re partners now so obviously we’re going to be friends”. Even Andy, Noah’s boyfriend who hated Chelsea for what happened, eventually thawed enough to be civil around her.
There isn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I was able to find a ship, Chelsea and Sam were so well written that they were a perfect book couple, and there was a nice little misfit group for me to wish I was a part of. There was Lowell, one of Warren’s friends and teammates who was such an asshole that I wanted to set him on fire (this is good because without a great villain, what do you have?) What wasn’t so great was that the vow of silence lasted about 20 pages too long. I had started to tire of it, though her first words after the vow were flawless, so that kind of made up for it. I hated that towards the end of the book Sam slept (and only slept) in Chelsea’s bed and the next morning she made him climb out the window to avoid her father. Not only was the entire scene totally cliché, but it was written like a rom-com/sitcom script. Other than that, it was kind of perfect. Take a look at my updates over at Goodreads, it’s very obvious how obsessed with this book I was:
page 246: “”Hate is easy. Love takes courage””
page 242: “Tears. Real tears.”
page 219: “*slow clap*”
page 216: “Lowell is such a fucking asshole.”
page 196: “YESSSS. THEY’RE KISSING”
page 170: “I will set Chelsea on fire if she’s a bitch to Sam for sticking up for her”
page 145: “OMG. I want a Dex and a Lou”
page 119: “YESSSS. I SHIP IT”
page 117: “I love Sam”
While it touches on some serious stuff, the narration is really hilarious. I loved that they all talked like real teenagers. They swore without being vulgar, she talked about a rumor that some girl gave the whole basketball team head, and she mocked herself internally for having googley eyes for one of her classmates. That’s really the best part of the entire book, the realness. Here are some quotes from the book that made me love Chelsea like she was my own best friend.
“I’m looking forward to it so much I could just shoot myself in the face in anticipation”
“Coming up with ideas is much more fun than trying to make them a reality”
“I’m not gay, but the fact that you think anyone should be ashamed to be makes you a total fucking asshole. Congratulations on being a miserable excuse for a human being, you ignorant scumbag”
Reviewing books that have such a high rating is so hard for me. There’s so much I want to discuss, but I never really know how to describe it to someone who hasn’t read the book themselves. Sometimes you can’t really understand the power of something until you experience it for yourselves, and I really think that if you’re reading this you need to go read this book if you haven’t already.