Thursday, August 30, 2012
Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Chelsea Knot has clawed and climbed and gossiped her way up to the top of her school’s social chain. But her reign as the queen bee’s best friend takes a shocking, dizzying fall when Chelsea’s post-party decision has the entire school jumping at the chance to alienate her.
Well, not quite the entire school. Despite her self-imposed vow of silence, Chelsea befriends Asha and several other classmates she’s never spoken to before, who all work at the diner in town. And one of her new friends, Sam, is utterly too cute and sweet. But has Chelsea finally learned her lesson this time about knowing when and when not to speak, and what she’s going to speak up for?
Hannah Harrington’s debut novel, Saving June, was my delightful surprise of 2011, so I had high expectations for her sophomore novel, SPEECHLESS. And while I didn’t like SPEECHLESS as much as I did Saving June, it was still an uplifting and quick YA contemporary read.
SPEECHLESS’ strength lies in its treatment of its protagonist, Chelsea. There is no doubt that Chelsea is a mean girl at the beginning of the book, so caught up in the dangerous thriller of being the first to find and spread gossip, and yet we readers undoubtedly see the potential she has in her for good. And yeah, okay, this is kind of the way that protagonists have to be—they have to arouse our empathy in order for us to want to invest in their journey—but Chelsea is, really, likable. She has a very relatable reaction to her changing social position at her high school, but she has an inner strength that we can admire: this is not a girl who will dissolve into a spineless, quivering, tearful mess in the face of extreme challenges.
That being said, the predictability of the rest of the story made this only a mediocre read for me. SPEECHLESS follows a very basic YA contemporary story format, complete with a budding romance that readers can call from the love interest’s first appearance on the page. While Chelsea’s situation is no doubt cringe-inducing—she’s forced to suffer at the hands of some truly heartless school bullies—it’s all written about in a very straightforward manner, so that you can anticipate everything that’s about to happen. While I don’t always require oodles of surprises and utter originality in my reads, the elements of this book just all felt very…safe to me, and thus ultimately forgettable.
SPEECHLESS’ reformed protagonist, golden-hearted supporting characters, and predictably sweet romance are nothing new in this genre, but sometimes that’s the kind of read you seek. If so, you can’t go wrong with Hannah Harrington’s well-intentioned books.
Cover discussion: This is a brave cover. It completely defies all the norms and goes for the ultra-minimalistic look. And it works.
Harlequin Teen / Aug. 28, 2012 / Paperback / 288pp. / $9.99
e-galley received from publisher and NetGalley.