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Book Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington (by Christie G)

Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Published August 2012 by HarlequinTeen
ISBN 9780373210527
Speechless was originally reviewed by Christie G. on September 7, 2012.  Because it has such an important and powerful message, we are re-running the review today as part of Harlequin Teen week.

“Yea, I can do this.  I can play dumb like Kristen said.  No one has to hear it from me.  I can stay quiet, even if no one else steps forward.  Even if it means Warren and Joey get away with this.  Even if Noah never wakes up.

What if he doesn’t?  And what if no one points the finger at Warren and Joey?  If that happens, can I really live with myself?”
from Speechless, by Hannah Harrington

Love is Louder Than Words
find out more about this anti-bullying movement

Speechless, by Hannah Harrington, is a unique viewpoint in the world of bullying books, in that you see the world through the eyes of the instigator.  Chelsea is the sixteen year old sidekick to the queen bee of the school.  At a New Year’s party she snuck out to, where she is throwing-up drunk, she outs Noah during the party, and he is beaten nearly to death by two of the school’s star players.  After deciding to speak up about the incident and letting first her parents and then the police know, Chelsea turns the punishment inward by not speaking, using only scribbled messages to communicate. 

As her life implodes, Chelsea takes her turn on the bullying end from the school.  Her previous friends deface her locker, her best friend spreads rumors and threats about her, and even a teacher gets into the act at the start by giving her detention daily in order to break her of the silent treatment.  And we learn that things weren’t always perfect in the social circle- Chelsea was subtly bullied by Kristen, the queen bee, into what clothes to buy (Why is the color pink in here?  I don’t like the color pink.  I don’t look good in the color pink.  But a third of my closet is devoted to pink sweaters and blouses and skirts.  All because Kristen always insisted it was “my color” p79), what activities to join, what classes to take, what to think, what to do.  Freed from her previous life, Chelsea can learn to become herself again, and start to do what feels right for her.
Part of that is finding new friends.  Asha and Sam and Dex would never have been part of her previous life, but fit right in the new world Chelsea is creating for herself.  When Chelsea finally breaks her silence, it’s worth it.
I was really struck by how true the voices were throughout the book.  I know most of these kids- they’ve passed through my library doors at one time or another.  Speechless tackles the subject of bullying without being fake or preachy, and it doesn’t gloss over the consequences of what happens to anyone- Chelsea and what happens to her for speaking out, Noah and the beating, the legal system and how they deal with Warren and Joey and hate crimes like these.  The characters are complex and well written, with back stories that you want to know more about, and even want to read a second book about. 
Speechless is perfect for those who want more books like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or Sarah Dressen’s works.
Have you read Speechless?  Share what you think in the comments!
Read more about bullying here at TLT:
Join the Fight Against Bullying
A Letter to Teens About Bullying
Quotable Ra: Stop Bullying. Period.

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