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Magan: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

book cover for speechless by hannah harringtonSpeechless by Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Pages: 336
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: hate crimes, gossiping and secrets, bullying, vow of silence
Format read: ARC received at ALA.

Summary: After Chelsea lets someone’s secret slip and the person is hospitalized, she takes a vow of silence.


Have you ever told a secret you had no right passing along?

Chelsea is in the business of telling everyone’s secrets. She’s kind of known for it. She sits at the top of the popularity totem pole with her BFF Kristen until she disastrously tells someone’s secret. The person ends up in the hospital, almost dead, and Chelsea is forced to speak up and tell everything she knew that led to the attack. Finally feeling the weight of her gossiping ways, she decides to take a vow of silence so she won’t be able to hurt anyone again. She doesn’t realize how quiet her life will become until she faces the attacks and bullying Kristen and her old crowd are now focusing on her.

I was absolutely blown away by Harrington’s writing in Saving June last year. When I saw Speechless at ALA I was beside myself excited to get to read more of her work. I noted the vow of silence and thought, “Hmm. Definitely haven’t read anything like this before!” This did bring up a few particular concerns, though. For a girl who likes to read dialogue and not chunks of unbroken description, would Harrington’s no-speaking thing intrigue or bore me? And also — what would this resolve?

Never fear, friends. My worries were absolutely unnecessary. Harrington manages to speak volumes without necessitating normal dialogue. Chelsea’s inner dialogue is full of emotion — confusion, anger, hurt, hope. Though she chooses not to speak aloud, she has to find a way to communicate, especially with her teachers at school. Thanks to a dry erase board she’s able to minimally say what she needs to. She learns how to communicate with more than just her words — she lets her emotions show via facial expressions and also drops the act of being just like her ex-BFF Kristen by dressing like she wants to.

As for resolution and what Chelsea would learn through this — let’s just say she had a long way to go for redemption. She was not high on my list of favorite characters in the beginning because she seemed shallow, self-absorbed, above status quo, unfazed by her actions, and ridiculously naive. Her silence was necessary; it provided time for her to reflect on her actions. Chelsea needed to grovel and unfortunately, she learned much from the backlash she received from the popular crowd. Silence teaches Chelsea to experience life differently than she ever has — she’s faced with a new set of acquaintances (some of which despise her because they were best friends with the person who was hurt), occupying her time with school instead of parties and shopping as she used to, and getting a job because she’s got nothing else.

What I love most about Harrington’s writing is her refusal to keep things simple; she took away the speaking ability of her character, but also put her through hell. Chelsea was being bullied and there was a very strong message about hate crimes that stayed at the forefront of my mind the entire time I read Speechless. Harrington spotlights how powerful (or hurtful) the spoken word can be and how easily we take it for granted to gain popularity, how we should be more thoughtful and considerate – weighing our words much more carefully than we do.

In my notes I wrote, “Harrington battles it out for the meanest bullies with Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are.” If you’re a Courtney Summer’s fan, please allow me to introduce you to Hannah Harrington.

Speechless is an incredibly powerful book and I’m even going to go so far as to say that I enjoyed it even more than Saving June. Harrington’s writing just keeps getting better and better.

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August 19, 2012 - 12:16 am

Estelle: Shelve It from Rather Be Reading Blog (8/19/2012) - […] Ruth by Zoe Fishman (adult fiction) Books set in our hometown (kind of) Speechless by Hannah Harrington (upcoming YA fiction) City of Women by David Gillham (adult historical […]

August 16, 2012 - 6:47 am

Lori - I loved Saving June and now I’m so excited to read this one!

August 16, 2012 - 1:04 am

Jess C - Wow, this book sounds amazing. I like the part about the main character communicating through inner dialogue.

August 15, 2012 - 11:56 pm

Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books - I absolutely LOVED this book. I thought it was brilliant, and though I haven’t read Saving June yet, I can tell I love Hannah Harrington’s writing.

August 15, 2012 - 10:37 pm

Magan - Keertana, thanks for your comment! I so, so agree with you. I loved it too! And I wish I could have Harrington books to read ALL THE TIME. I *need* more!

August 15, 2012 - 10:36 pm


August 15, 2012 - 10:36 pm

Magan - Mandee, I think you’re right. The intent was not to like her. It always amazes me how an author has to work to pull her audience back in to redeem her character(s). A true talent, I think!

August 15, 2012 - 10:35 pm

Magan - Elena, I had NO idea you couldn’t finish Some Girls Are. My gosh, that’s one of my favorite of Summers’ books. I do definitely encourage you to keep going with Speechless. I think you should know the bullying intensity, while present, didn’t seem AS terribly consistent as in SGA. I hope what I said makes sense. :-/ haha

August 15, 2012 - 10:33 pm

Magan - Tara — I agree 100%. Hannah’s writing is incredible. I NEED MORE TOO! 🙂

August 15, 2012 - 8:32 pm

Tara - Hannah Harrington is just absolutely amazing. Saving June was my favorite contemp last year and Speechless is definitely in the running for my fave this year. I need more of Hannah’s writing STAT. Fantastic review Magan!

August 15, 2012 - 7:52 pm

elena - Honestly, I couldn’t read Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are because it was very uncomfortable from what I skimmed/read about. I started this book but put it down because like you said, Chelsea is really naive and made a HUGE mistake. The reaction to it horrified me and it was just..yeah. I got to the part where she met her soon-to-be-friends & whiteboard though so maybe I will continue it.

August 15, 2012 - 6:26 pm

VeganYANerds - I loved this book too and I completely agree about Chelsea, at first I really did not like her but I’m sure this is how we’re supposed to feel because I really enjoyed watching her realise how wrong her past behaviour was. Lovely review!

August 15, 2012 - 1:17 pm

Anna - I adored this book. Further proof as to why we should all be huge Hannah Harrington fans!

August 15, 2012 - 11:38 am

Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings - I loved this book too and I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was such a subtle and simple, but powerful, read! I really love Harrington’s writing and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!(:

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