Speechless surprised me in many ways. With wonderfully constructed characters, who managed to be appropriately funny even while tackling some tough issues, Speechless is simply beautiful - to both read and with the message it delivers.
Chelsea starts off as a completely shallow and unlikable character. Striving to please her best friend Kristen - who also happens to be the most popular girl at school - she was willing to do or say whatever it took to keep their relationship strong. So when the opportunity came to dish out the juiciest gossip she had ever had - that she had walked in on Noah making out with another guy! - Chelsea held nothing back. But when Noah ends up in the hospital fighting for his life, Chelsea's conscience kicks in and she tells her parents (and the police) how Kristen's boyfriend, Warren, and his best friend Joel had gone after Noah to "teach him a lesson." It's at this moment that Chelsea realizes how much damage her mouth has caused, and pledges a vow of silence - and her journey of self-discovery truly begins.
Chelsea is a hilarious narrator. I found myself highlighting a LOT of her inner dialogue, as it had me laughing out loud.
"Also, tonight he reeks too much of beer and cloying cologne. This is a disappointment because I always assumed that a perfect creature such as Brendon would smell of spring rain and mountain bresses and other heavenly aromas."
"Therapy is my mother's solution to everything. I'm sure she thinks there'd be peace in the Middle East if every country were forced to sit down on a stiff leather couch with a box of Kleenex and talk about their feeeeelings."
But a lot of her funny moments were quickly sobered, as she began berating herself for her past behaviour - for following Kristen like a sheep, letting her decide what to wear and who to talk to, and for treating other people like crap in order to maintain Kristen's affection.
"It's like what those cheesy action-movie heros always say before they finish taking out the bad guys: I started this, and I'm going to finish it. Except even in the movie of my own life, I've never been the heroine. I've never been Action Girl. I've only ever been Kristen's supporting character."
Her character growth in Speechless, though subtle, was significant, and I loved watching her realize that she could have a life of her own, without Kristen or her influence. Her friendships with Asha and Sam had me nervous for the longest time, as I worried she would hurt them if Kristen managed to forgive her. I shouldn't have been so worried though, as like I said, her character growth was genuine. It took her a while to realize what a horrible human being she had been, and how what she had done to please Kristen had a ripple effect in causing harm to others.
"And I thought it was okay as long as I didn't actively participate, that it was enough for me to secrely believe in my heart of hearts that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being gay even if I never dared say it out loud."
But with her growing realization came understanding and then a sincere desire to change, to become a better person. It was Harrington's almost painfully realistic portrayal of Chelsea's struggle for self-discovery which truly made Speechless beautiful.
Harrington also handled the supporting characters with ease and grace. Flawed and infused with depth, I fell for each character in a different way. I adored Asha's genuineness and her constant bubblyness and Sam's earnest goodness radiated whenever he was protecting those he cares about. Even Chelsea became someone I admired, as she started to care less about what other people thought of her and more about how to be the kind of person who deserved the love shown to her by her new friends.
" walk to my car without looking back, and as I drive away, I'm hit with a sudden wave of sadness. But it's a distant kind of sad - like when you look at your Barbies and realize you don't want to play with them anymore, because you're growing up and you've moved on, and in your heart you know it's time to make room for other things."
The romance was subtle and unassuming, something I enjoyed as it didn't take away from the rest of Speechless' plot. I did slightly tire of the teenage-y speak, like, you know. But that same manner of speaking is what added to Chelsea's realism as a young adult. I would also have liked to see things a little less tidy at the end, but I guess there has to be times where someone gets their happily ever after!
Beautifully moving with a great message about love and the consequences of intolerance, Speechless is well worth a read. As another reviewer pointed out, "this novel isn't mindblowing, it isn't earth-shattering, it didn't elevate my intellectual and spiritual being in any way. But, it did make me flip the last page with a small sigh..."
After reading the synopsis, I was a little like "ehhh" kind of sounds like a weird premise. I mean really, what high school girl you know would really decide to take a vow of silence? But then after reading and finding out the event that caused it, I see exactly why. What happens is heart breaking. Many people don't see the effect that society has on teens, but this story shows just that. This story tells just how "important" your peer's opinion is.
Chelsea has had the biggest mouth in her grade since she can remember. Any news she got, she spread it. Which is the reason her best friend is the most popular girl in school. But then one night something happens and Chelsea is scared into silence. Because she did the one thing that no one else would do.... She was brave.
I can absolutely relate to this book because being only 23 I still remember being in high school and how everyone acted. I can truly say it was portrayed as a modern day high school. For this reason, I LOVED the characters. They were easy for me to connect with and I understood they were acting that way because of immaturity.
As for the romance in this novel, it kind of unexpected for me. I knew it to be a contemporary romance and that eventually she would fall for someone, but I honestly thought it would be someone else. It was actually a bit of a surprise when the secret came out. It was quite refreshing to have it be them.
Speechless is a tale of growth, friendship, and love. It will leave you thinking about the bigger issue it covers long after you turn the last page.
"Hate is... it's too easy," he says. "Love. Love takes courage."
The main reason I checked out Speechless was because of its cover: a cover without a pretty girl in a pretty dress on the it, a cover without a pretty girl about to kiss an equally as pretty boy on the it. It's different, and I love it. However, based on the vague synopsis, I came to the conclusion that this book most likely wasn't for me, and decided to pass on it. It wasn't until I saw glowing four and five star reviews for this book from trusted friends of mine that I decided to request this on NetGalley and see if I would end up liking it. And let me just take a moment to say, that I'm so happy I took the chance and requested this on NetGalley.
Normally, this would be the part in my review where I'd write my own little synopsis explaining what the book is about. But, I'm not going to do this for Speechless. I want you, dear reader, to read the vague synopsis. And if you do read the provided synopsis and don't know much about what will happen in Speechless afterwards, good. I want you to go into this book knowing barely anything about it. I want this book to have the same surprise for you as it did for me. And hopefully, you end up enjoying it as much as I enjoyed it.
And I more than enjoyed this book. I loved this book to bits. I loved the characters, and the depth each and every one of them was provided with (for the most part, but more on that later in the review). I loved the funny moments and one-liners this book had. I loved the emotional punch this book gave me, many, many times. But what I especially loved is how Harrington made me dislike the central character in the beginning, and then have me absolutely love her in the end.
Chelsea Knot is not a perfect character, she's not a perfect person, but, in that sense, she's realistic, and extremely easy to sympathize with. Wouldn't you say that a flawed and believable character is easier to like and sympathize with than a perfect character? Chelsea knows that what she's done in her past to people was wrong, and she learns the error of her ways and grows as a character immensely by the end of Speechless, and getting to see and compare the massive change in who Chelsea was by the beginning of this novel to the end is really something special.
Chelsea's friends, Asha, Sam, Dex, and Lou might just be some of my favorite characters I've had the pleasure to read about so far this year. Like Chelsea, they're all flawed, but they're all amazing and extremely likable characters, and they accepted Chelsea when no one else would. Asha is the best friend anyone could ever hope to have - she's loyal, helpful, and only ever sees the good in people. The same goes for Chelsea's other friends, Sam, Dex, and Lou, who are all sweet and difficult to dislike. (Though I would have liked to see much more of Dex and Lou!)
Harrington's writing, while not the most exquisite, is captivating, and the dialogue between the characters is incredibly witty and fun. While we are at times bombarded by acronyms, overuse of the word 'like', and text speak, it only made the environment in which Chelsea and her friends were surrounded by, and their characters, more believable to me.
So, after all of this glowing praise for Speechless, why am I giving it four stars? There are only two reasons I can pinpoint as of right now that restrain myself from giving Speechless the five stars it undoubtedly deserves. Those two reasons are that Kristen, the main antagonist of the story, and really all of the other antagonists, are never given much depth. And the second reason that I can't bring myself to give Speechless five stars is that the slut-shaming and Chelsea calling people freaks, etc, was a bit too much at times.
However, despite those problems, which seem miniscule when compared to all the things I didn't have problems with, I think it's safe to say, that - wait for it... Speechless left me speechless.
To be honest, the very first thing I noticed about Speechless was the gorgeous cover. I realize you might find that a little odd. There are no faces, no swirls, no fancy typeface to draw in the reader. However it is exactly the lack of all those accoutrements that caught my eye. Simplistic. Beautiful. A blank slate. Then, the synopsis. Thank you whoever wrote this! Thank you so very much for not giving away the entire plot in a few paragraphs. I promise you, vague or not, this synopsis is perfection. Speechless holds much more than you are expecting.
Chelsea Knot is definitely not a perfect person. What she is, is realistic. A girl who is flawed, selfish, and raw. Harrington starts out the book by showing us a Chelsea that is pretty easy to dislike. One who spreads rumors, and hurts people. However as she learns the error of her ways, she grows by leaps and bounds. The Chelsea at the end of Speechless is an entirely different person, and just being there for her journey will make you fall in love. In fact, the entire cast of characters that support Chelsea in her time of need are easy to love. I could go on and on about Asha, Sam, Dex and Lou, but I won't. I'll let you meet them for yourself.
What I loved most about this book is that Chelsea's story is full of hope. It is full of growth, and understanding. Speechless touches on tough topics, and it does it well. Instead of relying on angst to draw the reader in, we get to dive deep in Chelsea's head and learn right along with her. There is a message here, that bridges that gap between all ages that might pick up this book. I think Harrington says it best with: "Hate is... it's too easy," he says. "Love. Love takes courage."
Despite it taking some time for me to feel the writing style of the book, I soon became immersed. In fact, a sigh escaped my lips when I reached the last page. A sigh of contentment at how perfectly this book is paced, and executed. Even the romance in this book is spot on, and builds slowly. Gorgeous. Speechless has just further cemented my opinion that Hannah Harrington is a master of her craft.
Has a message that bridges age groups.
Very vivid characters!