by Hannah Harrington
ARC from publisher
[#58 in my 75 book challenge]
At first I thought this book would be a lot like Speak or Lauren Myracle’s Shine, but I was surprised to find that it is quite different. Chelsea Knott is the second most popular girl in her high school, and she is a known for being a shallow gossip. One night at a party, Chelsea shares some gossip that results in a serious act of violence. So she takes a vow of silence. She’s going to stop the gossip cycle. What she doesn’t realize is that now she’s about to become the target of the bullying, and she’s plagued with guilt about what she’s done.
First off, I’ll say that I liked Chelsea. Her transformation throughout the story is subtle and believable, not preachy or fake. I also LOVED the new friends she made during her silence! I mean, who wants to be popular when you can hang out at a diner studying math and making tuna melts? But mostly I loved the message of the story, which centers on the lasting impact of our words and the effects of bullying in various forms.
Though it borders on cheesy and predictable at times, Speechless did manage to win me over at about the halfway point. There are no crazy twists and no big reveals, but the end of the book leaves the reader feeling hopeful. I walked away feeling good about life, which I feel is the right message for a book about bullying.
[Oh, and Speechless gets the GLBT tag because the initial violence is a hate crime committed against a GLBT character. So for those with an interest in GLBT lit, definitely check this one out.]
FINAL GRADE: B Overall, a good book. I would strongly recommend it for inclusion in a high school library, considering its connection to Love is Louder. Love is Louder is a non-profit spreading the message that “love and support are louder than any internal or external voice that brings us down.” It would be a great book for high school book club, and the site linked includes resources for reading the novel with teens. The folks on Goodreads also seem to be giving it pretty high reviews, so you should definitely check it out if you love issue novels or contemporary YA. As for the middle school scene — I would include it in my library, but it does contain sexual content.
In case you’re interested, I’ve included the book trailer below: