Book Info: YA Contemporary, ARC via NetGalley, PB 288 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
In Speechless, Chelsea Knot is the second-in-command in the popular crowd at her school. She’s achieved acclaim by aligning herself with girl posse leader Kristen, but she always needs to prove her worth, typically by digging up gossip. Chelsea witnesses something she shouldn’t have at a party and blabs about it to the wrong people, leading to dire circumstances. Now she’s taken a vow of silence to help make up for the trouble she’s caused, and she has some new friends to help her on her path. It’s not easy, however, as the bully-er is now the bully-ee when her old pack turns against her.
I liked Chelsea, but it took me a little while to warm up to her. The book started off rough for me because it was hard to connect with or like any of these self-centered and superficial characters. But even though I didn’t like Chelsea at first, she won me over by trying to make herself better and to fix her problems. Her peers, teachers, and family are skeptical about the no-speaking plan and that Chelsea can change her ways. Her old friends are giving her the cold shoulder because of the perceived betrayal, and her new potential group of friends is understandably wary of Chelsea. I’ve regret saying hurtful things in high school so I could relate that Chelsea is trying to rise above her mistakes.
I liked seeing Chelsea gain her new friends Sam and Asha’s trust and learn about how true, supportive friends behave. There’s also a sweet, romantic angle to one of the friendships though it’s not the main focus of the book. And of course it’s a little tricky for the developing romance when only one person can speak!
Besides bullying, Speechless also addresses relevant topics like sexuality and tolerance, and speaking up when it’s the right thing to do. Though there are some heavy subjects covered, Harrington handles it with a light touch and the writing flows easily throughout. The anti-bullying message in Speechless makes it a good fit for school libraries and as a teaching tool. Though tolerance and bullying may be a little improved since I’ve been in middle school and high school there is clearly still a lot of work to do.
I loved Harrington’s first book, Saving June, and now with Speechless Harrington has become a new favorite author. Fans of Saving June should watch for a subtle but sweet cameo by Jake and Harper by the way. If you enjoy contemporary YA I hope you give this book a try. I’m looking forward to reading Harrington’s next book.