Friday, September 14, 2012


by Hannah Harrington
Published by Harlequin Teen
288 pages
Available on
Genre: YA
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

If there is one word that is synonymous with "high school girl," it would be "drama."

Teenage girls love them some drama, and if you doubt that, come on and hang out in my classroom. You will discover that I speak the truth. Some girls like to stir up drama, others like to be in the middle of it, and then there are those who enjoy watching it unfold. In Speechless, sophomore Chelsea Knot tends to be one of the stirrers, although she really can't help it. She speaks before she thinks, rarely - if ever - considering the consequences of her blabbing.

A New Year's Eve party changes everything when Chelsea blurts out something she witnessed between two classmates. Just as she realizes the implications of what she says, she also realizes that she is powerless to stop them. When a near tragedy results, Chelsea responds by deciding to keep quiet. Seriously quiet. As in, she decides to say nothing to anybody.

Alas, Chelsea is a high schooler, which means her peers do not respond well, either to her actions during the party or afterwards. She soon is left without her best friend, or really anyone else. Forced to go it alone - and mutely, at that - Chelsea soon discovers a new circle of friends and even gets a job as a dishwasher at a kitschy diner. A new coworker also happens to be her partner in art class: the cute, adorably dorky and charming Sam.

Much of this book speaks to the cold hard truth about high school: it sucks. It really, really sucks, whether you are part of the "in" crowd or left standing in its shadows. Chelsea's decision to staunch her voice allows the rest of her senses to be more perceptive. She begins to realize the false front of her friendships, and she comes to see the torture and reward of striking out on her own.

The thing about high school is that kids profess to want to be different. They decry homogeneity, yet they need it to survive. Be different, but be the same. Change, but be more like everyone else. Hannah Harrington understands this, and her characters and dialogue delivery a pretty realistic picture of the ugliness of the high school experience.

Harrington does take some short cuts, but given how well she crafts Chelsea, we can forgive her for too safe of a conclusion, including that regarding Chelsea's relationship with her parents. Chelsea frustrates us, perhaps all the more because we see a bit of ourselves in her. Who didn't want to be popular in high school? Be honest. You know you did, even if doing so made you a little sick to your stomach. And so it is with Chelsea, who craves being a part of something, yet comes to see its danger.

Speechless is an excellent YA novel and sure to interest teens and even those of us a few (cough) years removed from high school. Give it a try, and maybe in doing so, you will discover just how much you gain when you give up your voice.

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