Author Hannah Harrington
Release: August 28th 2012
Paperback, 228 pages
A popular girl, queen bee’s best friend, in fact, but one that never felt like she really belonged, commits an unforgivable offense against the in-crowd and becomes a social outcast overnight. Left without other options and tired of being the target of abuse, she starts spending time with the weird girl and her group of friends and, after a lot of personal growth and quite a few enlightening moments, realizes there’s more to life than malls and glitter.
Yes, that is a description of at least a hundred YA contemporary books. Yes, Speechless is one of them. Yes, I usually stay as far away from them as possible, and I intend to keep doing that in the future. But this is Hannah Harrington, you know? And despite all my fears and reluctance, she truly made it work.
That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle at the beginning. The mean girls theme is one of my deal-breakers – those things I just can’t force myself to read about, and that’s what the beginning of Speechless is all about. It didn’t help that Chelsea, the main character, was constantly trying to prove herself to them. Such things always leave a bad taste in my mouth. I still remember Pink by Lili Wilkinson and the exact moment I realized that her main character, Ava, reached the point of no redemption. All those Very Important Life Lessons that came after couldn’t save her in my eyes. When you’re done, you’re done.
I loved that, loved that I mattered, that people were jealous. I loved turning heads. It didn’t matter that most of them were looking at Kristen; I was in their line of vision, and that totally counted for something. Being on the radar at all. It made me more than average. It was everything to me.Fortunately, Chelsea realized the magnitude of her mistakes just before reaching that point. I was angry with her, but Harrington’s timing was superb, and that’s what saved the book for me. She turned things around at the very last acceptable moment, and she exposed her main character to abuse, which made me feel sorry for her first, and gave me a chance to genuinely like her later.
Oddly enough, romance was once again my favorite part. A slowly developed attraction between a normal-looking boy (no heart-stopping gorgeousness here) and a very flawed girl was simply too realistic and heartwarming to ignore. I loved how Sam changed in Chelsea’s eyes. At first, she saw nothing special about him, apart from the fact that he was being nice to her when he had every reason not to be, but after some time together she started seeing him differently, until suddenly nothing about him felt ordinary anymore. That’s the kind of love I want to read about – just people falling in love with other people. We can’t all fall for, or even appreciate, perfection.
… I was never happy before, and I never even realized it. You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. You can be the most popular person in school, envied by every girl and wanted by every boy, and still feel completely worthless. The world can be laid at your feet, and you can still not know what you want from it.In the end, I feel it’s necessary to point out that Speechless is nothing like Saving June. On the one hand, it’s a good thing. Diversity is always good and it would be a disaster for a young author like Hannah Harrington to fall into a repetitive pattern. On the other hand, if you’re expecting to recreate the emotions Saving June left you with, you might end up just a little bit disappointed. Separate these two books in your mind and then go out to grab a copy of Speechless. I doubt you’ll regret it.