Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

If books could reproduce – don’t ask me for visuals – Speechless by Hannah Harrington would be the child of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. All three are YA, contemporary books I would love to just shove at my future students and force them to read.

Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret. She’s one of those girls. If you’ve read any young-adult realistic fiction or if you’ve watched Mean Girls, you know the archetype I’m talking about. The totally selfish, totally conceited, totally all-I-care-about-is-my-popularity girl who gossips about everyone and cares about no one. In this case our protagonist Chelsea is second-in-command to her best friend and utter b-word Kristen. But when Chelsea blabs at a party and almost ends someone’s life, her sheltered existence comes crashing down. She decides to take a vow of silence – but even with that, can she bring herself to forgive, to face the truth, and finally, to somehow speak up for herself?

All of the wonderful YA reviewers on Goodreads have already got this book covered, but one of its best aspects for me was Chelsea’s voice. Not her literal voice, obviously, but just how real and smooth she felt as a protagonist. Harrington knew when to incorporate exaggerations (like, oh my gosh, I want to push Kristen into a pit of sharks), cursing, little bits of colloquialisms, etc. It never felt like she was recreating a teen perspective, rather, she herself was the teen perspective, through Chelsea.

While Speechless contains several subjects pertinent to high school – popularity, relationships, bullying, and more – its strongest theme was that of forgiveness. Harrington stated in an interview that she originally titled the book The Redemption of Chelsea Knot and I can completely see why. This book exemplifies that with the right people and the right mindset, you can plow through all the obstacles life puts in your way and make yourself more than just your previous mistakes.

I also loved how Harrington handled LGBTQ topics without getting preachy or pedantic. My two favorite scenes in the book both involved Chelsea interacting with either Noah or Adam, but at the same time, Harrington kept the spotlight on Chelsea, as well as her other finely-developed friends, Asha and Sam. After all, it was Chelsea’s story, and she owned it.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of young-adult contemporary fiction, as well as those just searching for a refreshing read. While it’s not exactly an emotional powerhouse or a book that will 100% make you reach for the tissue box, its characters and themes deliver the goods. I cannot wait to read Harrington’s debut, Saving June.


Filed under 4 stars, Book Reviews, Books

14 responses to “Speechless by Hannah Harrington

  1. Hmmm…it sounds very interesting. I may have to check it out. I love how you said “if books could reproduce” thats a great potential post idea! πŸ™‚

    • It is a great potential post idea, it would lead to a lot of great mixing and matching and analyzing and what not! Thanks for reading and commenting. (:

  2. I *loved* Before I Fall. I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t love Speak, but I definitely loved the idea behind it and plan on having a copy on my bookshelf for students to read if they so choose. I think this book sounds like one I should read. It seems like it’s one that’s already on my TBR list on Goodreads, but I think I’ll have to actually read it in the near future after this glowing review. πŸ™‚

    • Even if you didn’t love Speak I would still recommend Speechless – the idea of voice is a theme in both books but the writing styles and overall subjects are quite different. Hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up! (PS: I’m going to include a copy of Speak on the shelves of my classroom as well, if I can. Woo future English teachers unite!)

  3. Sounds like I’ll have to check it out! I’m still hung up on the idea of books I would want to reproduce….that will definitely be a post idea for the future!

  4. Wonderful review, Thomas! You covered all the important aspects of this book in such a flawless manner! And I’m totally for the reproducing of books, that would be pretty awesome, to say the least.

    “It never felt like she was recreating a teen perspective, rather, she herself was the teen perspective, through Chelsea.”

    ^^^That was brilliant Thomas, what a strong line. Can’t wait for your next post!

    -Grace πŸ™‚

    P.S. I’ve read Saving June, and whilst I did enjoy Speechless more, Harrington’s debut novel is still pretty darn good (especially the end, in my opinion)!

    • Thank you for all your kind words Grace! Looking forward to reading Saving June even more now – while I’ve read many comparisons between Harrington’s novels, no one has outright said that they disliked either of them. (:

  5. Wonderful review, Thomas – I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! I was so pleasantly surprised by it, only because the “speechless” concept seems rather typical, but Harrington really made it work. It was also so effective in conveying who Chelsea was and I love that it never became preachy or a plot device, instead working so seamlessly with the story. Saving June, Harrington’s debut, is one of my favorite books. I liked it a lot more than this one – though I adored this book – and although it has its flaws, I think its subject matter and the older age group of the characters makes it slightly more compelling. Still, Speechless has such a strong core group of secondary characters – especially everyone at the diner/bakery (I forget) were Asha works. I can’t wait to see what you think of Saving June and beautifully written review! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Keertana, that means a lot coming from a master reviewer such as yourself! A lot of people have commented that Saving June had a bit more emotional intensity, and I can see why when an older age group is cast into consideration. I agree that the diner provided a strong setting for the secondary characters to shine. Once again, thanks for reading and commenting. (:

  6. I’ve read Speak but not Before I Fall! Chelsea sounds like an amazing Character with right the right amount of realism to make her so loved. This book is added to my never ending TBR list as well! Great review.

    • If it’s on your TBR list – even if it is a never-ending one – I consider that a mission accomplished. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. Reproducing books… That actually sounds pretty darn awesome. And we would be able to see what kind of book would REALLY happen when Twilight and some-other-book are combined πŸ˜€

    I am so glad that you enjoyed Speechless! And your review is fantastic! Chelsea definitely owned the book (I love her so much) and it is completely true when you say that Harrington was doing more than just recreating a teen perspective.

    And yeah, Kristin is a character that is… easily disliked. But I appreciated that Harrington made her more human at the end πŸ™‚

    Great review!

    • I feel like the Twilight lovers (and haters) would be excited to see what happens when Twilight reproduces… and thank you Lottie, your review and Grace’s were two of the ones that propelled me to pick it up! Kristin is easily disliked, but sometimes, people are like that in life. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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