Review Blog

Nov 15 2012

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

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Harlequin Teen Australia, 2012. ISBN: 9781921796579.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. I absolutely loved Harrington's first novel, Saving June, so I was excited to see this one. I am not sure why we get it at least 6 months before the US market, but for whatever reason, thank you! Speechless is almost the perfect teen contemporary novel, and will be very popular amongst 15 and 16 year old girls.
Chelsea is living a precarious life. Her deepest fear is that her BFF, Kristen, popular cheerleader material, will suddenly realise how boring Chelsea is and dump her for more wealthy, more good looking, more daring girls. So Chelsea plays dangerous games, gossiping, judging, and criticising her peers to entertain Kristen in a desperate attempt to keep her friendship. Readers know this a slippery slope and it's inevitable she will make a complete fool of herself, but even when it happens, it's shocking and horrible.
The consequences are monumental and the one thing Chelsea dreaded happens: Kristen dumps her completely and publicly, and Chelsea's life at school does the predictable thing: dives from winner to loser, popular to shunned, heckler to heckled. If I had one criticism of the book, it was the way other students treated Chelsea. The sheer amount of bullying she deals with is horrifying, and hopefully unrealistic. Maybe kids do suffer as much as Chelsea does, but I sure hope not.
Chelsea chooses a life of deliberate silence. Not trusting herself to speak, she stops altogether, and the story shows how the people around her react to this provocative behaviour. Many adults don't cope, so imagine the younger crowd. Needless to say, the plot now becomes fairly standard teenage fare: Chelsea bonds with new quirky people, finds a part-time job, and learns to live with the mistake she has made. Her honesty and resilience in dealing with her bad behaviour, and the treatment she receives afterwards, allow great character development. Harrington's writing is full of humour and affection.
This novel is not long or drawn out; Harrington keeps it tight and strong. The love-interest is a terrific character, honest and loyal. The new best friend has her own story, and Chelsea's family aren't left on the (unrealistic) sidelines. Themes include bullying, peer pressure, romance, family relationships, coming-of-age, friendship, and identity.
Trisha Buckley

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