Sometimes it is really difficult and even scary to speak up for what you believe is right, but it’s important to do. At the end of the day you answer to yourself, no one else, so you’ll be happy you did.
Chelsea Knot is an incorrigible gossip, she admits it herself on the very first pages of Speechless. She’s also an impetuous sixteen-year-old teen who makes mistakes. One of those mistakes leads to a boy being beaten up and almost dying. Blaming herself and her own words, Chelsea makes a vow of silence and starts her month long road to self-discovery.
She’s still an impetuous sixteen-year-old girl at the end of the book, but she’s also a stronger person and a better human being.
Only a few days ago I wrote a long review for Beautiful Disaster pointing out some of the authorial mistakes in that book, one of which was the lack of character growth in a so-called character driven story. I feel like I should give this book to Jamie McGuire, and tell her to read and learn.
This could be a handbook to how character driven YA novels should be written.
The character gallery is familiar. We have the popular girls and boys as well as the outcasts and the people who blend in all sorts of groups. Unlike Bella Swan and every other YA protagonist that followed her, Chelsea likes being popular and using the power that comes with it. She’s not perfect and knows her shortcomings, but she’s not focusing on them—well, not more than any other teenage girl would when shopping for bras.
They? Incorrect plural usage!
There’s Brendon, the gorgeous smart guy she has a crush on, but who isn’t without his faults. There’s Kristen, Chelsea’s best friend, the superficially inclined popular girl who runs the high school’s social circles but whose shell has its own cracks. There’s Warren, Joey, Derek, and there’s Asha, Sam, Andy, and Noah. All of whom felt like real characters despite their limited appearance in the book.
And, believe it or not, there are adults. They don’t overshadow the teenage angst or drama, but they are a presence. On a second thought, I could show this book to Maggie Stiefvater too: Yes, it is possible to write a YA novel where the teens have problems and strong parent figures as well. It can be done.
Where was I? The vow of silence. As you can imagine, it’s not easy. Chelsea learns to communicate without words and to bite her tongue when she’s mocked, ignored, or worse. She wallows in narcissistic self-pity like only a teenager can, but she also recognises it. She realises she can’t stay silent forever, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to the words that’ll break her silence to mean something. In a way, as young as she is, she’s also mature in a way that I can’t remember being at that age. Maybe Chelsea has better friends than I did.
Good for her. Who wants to be a virgin forever?
One more thing I must mention. For a while, I was absolutely dreading the romance aspect of this book. I could not see how it would work, because there wasn’t any chemistry between Chelsea and Brendon. I shouldn’t have fretted. It’s safe to say that Harrington has earned my trust and I’ll never doubt her again.
I make a point of not adding anyone to my favourites list until I’ve read at least two separate novels from them and two novels of the same series don’t count. The can’t be connected. I broke that rule for Harrington for the simple reason that I love how she writes.
Do I think this book could have been any better? No. Unfortunately, I don’t give five star ratings to perfect books; I give them to books that change me. As touching as Speechless was, it doesn’t quite fit that category.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Pages: 288 (paperback)
Published: August 28th 2012