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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
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Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Speechless - Hannah Harrington Well, the book I'm reviewing today was certainly an odd little chestnut! But one I enjoyed cracking open, nonetheless. Let's look at Speechless, a YA novel by Hannah Harrington.Speechless tells the story of loudmouth popular girl Chelsea Knot. She and her best friend Kristen organise a New Year's party, and Chelsea winds up publicly outing Noah, a gay student she finds with his boyfriend in one of the bedrooms. Two of the jocks barge out after him, and lynch him. All because Chelsea couldn't keep her mouth shut.Deciding not to let this pass, Chelsea tells the police what happened, and takes a vow of silence. Kristen, however, decides to use her popular girl influence to make Chelsea's school life a living hell, seeing as one of the jocks was Kristen's boyfriend. Chelsea has to endure emotional bullying, cyber threats, etc., whilst growing as a person, trying to win back her reputation, and making new friends along the way.So, what did I think of Speechless? Overall, it's a pretty well-written story, with some wonderful development in regards to our main character. Chelsea starts off as a spiteful and judgemental little creature, and I hated her for it. She looks down on her nose on just about everybody (and throws the words 'slut' and 'fag' around a few too many times for my liking), and she's really stubborn. Basically, Chelsea was one of the most aggravating things about this novel when I first started reading it. I wanted to be invested in her character. When I read the blurb, I assumed she would quickly slip out of the 'catty queen bee' persona, and realise she has a lot of growing up to do. Maybe even take responsibility for what happened to Noah. Nope! In the same fashion as Ever Bloom from Alyson Noël's hideous Immortals series, Chelsea handles the bullying by just pulling on her baggiest clothes, zipping her lips, and hoping people will notice that she's now completely invisible. Because you know, that totally works.However, she also retains her stupid, vapid ways, even after taking this 'burden' off her shoulders.I'm only here [in Art] because it's the easiest elective available, and it sure as hell beats Shop (what a misleading title!), or Personal Finance (my only interest in money is spending it, not budgeting it). (Page 50)I don't associate with [geeky freshman] freaks. (Page 67)It's just... argh. It's so frustrating to read, because I just keep thinking she's got to see the error of her ways some time. I suppose everyone knows someone like this, though... People who are never, ever part of a problem. It's always everybody else who causes an issue, never themselves. And they don't realise this until way too late. This is actually quite good, in terms of realism. Think of a yo-yo. The yo-yo representing Chelsea's personality is at rock bottom, doing a pretty terrible 'walk the dog' routine. Pull it up too quickly to her personal redemption, however, and the story is over. Slowly pull her up by a thread, though, and you've got a story in progress. Yeah, that was a terrible analogy, but all the same, I realise she can't just snap into being virtuous and kind after one horrible experience in her life. Her flaws of personality are the only thing she knows how to use to get through high school.She's still vapid and annoying to read though, however slow her climb up towards redemption may be. Everything has to revolve around her, and I mean everything. A quarter of the way into the story, we meet two characters called Sam and Asha, who work at a small diner. When Chelsea goes to the diner with them one evening, it's revealed that Noah used to work there with his boyfriend, and OMG WHY WOULD YOU EVEN BRING ME HERE THAT'S SO UNFAIR!!1!!1!But thankfully, Chelsea slowly starts to grow up. She starts realising the gravity of what she did, why people are pissed off at her, and the choices she must make to move on from this incident.I also really loved the supporting characters in this novel. Well, not the arseholes who try to drag Chelsea down, but characters like Asha, Andy, Lou, Dex and Sam. Asha was a cute, quirky girl who bonded with Chelsea over studying geometry in detention. She wasn't quite as well-developed as the other characters (all we get is that her mother is ill and her father's away a lot), but I was definitely rooting for her, and I even got quite angry when those popular girls pick on her because she's hanging out with Chelsea.Andy has to be one of my favourite characters. He was the boy in bed with Noah at the start of the book, and so, he has every right to hate Chelsea for blabbing their secret. He's bitingly sarcastic to start off with, but grows to forgive Chelsea after she starts working in the diner with him, and starts to mature as a person.Sam was... well, Sam is your regular 'sweet guy who will eventually be the main character's boyfriend' archetype, with not much backstory to go on, so... yeah. It fits in the context of the novel, though. I really liked all of the supporting cast, and I'm willing to slightly forgive any errors in character development, since the novel was centred around Chelsea's personal growth. Since bullying plays a major part in this novel, let's take a break to look at that. Like I said before, Chelsea sticks out her chin, holds her nose up high above her stiff upper lip, and refuses to let the bullying get to her, even though it's clear to see it is taking an effect on her. She refuses to tell her parents or the authorities, she refuses to transfer schools, and she refuses to seek any form of counselling. I suppose some people might think it's brave, but I just wanted to shake her and tell her to just tell somebody, you know?I really liked this book in comparison to Saving June, the first Hannah Harrington book I read. Saving June was like all the dullest parts of John Green's Paper Towns mixed into a heap. However, Speechless really is her best work, in my eyes, with just the right amounts to make it work. The bullying message is a little bit skewed at points, but thankfully, it doesn't go down the revenge route, or the teachers going 'oh my god, you should have told me earlier' moral lesson schtick. Chelsea gives one of her tormentors a stern talking to when she finally has enough of all this crap, and tips off a teacher to the drug abuse the jocks partake in. (Not out of revenge, but because she's tired of keeping her mouth shut about serious issues.) At the end of the novel, she bravely drives to Kristen's house to reconcile with her, and it works. It all just works. The end of the novel has a wonderfully triumphant tone to it. I'm not going to spoil it, though. It could have been schmaltzy as hell, but just worked out beautifully.I know I was just praising it to the high heavens, but it does have its faults. I find it difficult to forgive the vapid, high school popularity-obsessed moron I had to struggle to read for the first one hundred or so pages. I also wish some of the side characters had been fleshed out a little more. However, it's still a wonderful, breezy read, and I loved the characters, the setting, and how everybody managed to overcome their flaws by the end of the book. 4/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/speechless-by-hannah-harrington.html)