August 28, 2012
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***Warning-ish now that this is a long review because I apparently loved this book and have a lot of reasons - condensing didn't work***
Everyone at Grand Lake High knows not to ask Chelsea King that question. Chelsea King can't, and never has been able to, keep a secret. All of that's about to change, though.
The last secret that she told not only helped turn her into an outcast, it nearly got someone killed.
Chelsea needs to keep her mouth shut for once. She's taking a vow of silence because no one wants to hear what she has to say anyway and she needs to keep from hurting anyone else. Through it she may learn who her real friends - even if they're someone new - are and maybe even a little about herself.
If staying silent when she knew a juicy secret seemed impossible, Chelsea will now have to see if she can keep her vow when she feels the need to speak up for much different reasons.
Speechless, from the author of Saving June, has an incredibly enticing premise, even better there is then a novel that not only fulfills the promise created by that premise but then goes above and beyond it.
Chelsea King is not, immediately, a very likable character, she isn't someone you can see being friends with, either. She admits right from the first page that she's been sharing everyone's secrets since kindergarten. When we meet Chelsea in the present, she's friends with the her grade's Queen Bee Kristen (even if it's not an equal friendship) and getting very drunk at a party at her house.
Chelsea not being a clear-cut good character not only makes the story work, it makes it work incredibly well. Her growth from page one of Speechless all the way until the last word, makes this book one amazing page turner. it also makes it powerful, emotional and one you really can't miss.
The vow of silence that Chelsea takes, isn't immediately to understand how she's been acting better, to see how she's been making others feel. That's all too altruistic for how the beginning of her vow seems. Yes, she feels bad for what happened, but mixed in with the guilt is some selfishness - that no one cares anyway.
Hannah Harrington does an incredible job portraying Chelsea's feelings even without allowing her to speak. Yes, she does write some but that still allows her fewer words than speaking would. Her progression isn't immediate - she still isn't completely likable for a while - but it's better that way. It feels realistic. Chelsea's characterization is pretty near perfect. We see, through, little things how, in her friendship with Kristen, Chelsea had allowed herself to be subverted.
"[Kristen] got all pissed when I wrote about frosted lipstick being a fashion, "Don't," since she loves it, and then told me someone wears gold shimmery eye shadow isn't one to talk. I still don't understand what's wrong with gold eye shadow, but I threw it out anyway." pg 82I may have been one of the few not to have a crush on Jake in Saving June (nothing wrong, I just didn't), but I'm a little bit in love with - and have a crush on - almost every non-jerky boy in Speechless. So, it's obvious that Hannah Harrington knows how to write her male characters. And a wide range of them as well. They were well written, had distinct personalities, interacted well together as well as with the other characters and the more central male characters' progressed nicely over the book.
The other, main, female character was to the book just what her character was for Chelsea. She was bright and bubbly and felt like life and fresh air. The book wasn't troubled, but at times the characters and what they were experiencing was and she felt like she kept them . . . up.
Speechless is not at all a preachy book. It's not a PSA. It's not in your face and it doesn't beat you over the head with a message - but it absolutely has one. That it uses a main character, Chelsea, who starts off shallow, unlikable, drunk, unable to keep secrets and indifferent to how her actions effect others is why it works so well.
As Chelsea begins to see it - through her vow of silence, through her friends --old and new -- so do readers.
(The only thing I could take anything off for was that Chelsea felt older than a sophomore. She seemed more like a junior or senior to me in the beginning.)
Get ready to read this sometime when you can be speechless - both because of its greatness and because you'll connect so well with Chelsea that talking will feel strange.
thank you to HarlequinTEEN and Edelweiss for my egalley of this title for review