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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Speechless - Hannah Harrington Cover Impressions: The cover is cute and effective but needs something to make it a little more eye catching. I am happy to see a cover model that seems to reflect the main character, but would have seen a bit more red to her hair.The Gist: Chelsea has spent most of her teenage years playing sidekick to Kristen. In her climb to the top of the social pyramid, she has discovered and revealed secrets about most of her classmates. One night, a secret she reveals leads to consequences that she never expected and she is forced to re-examine her choices. She realizes that he root of her problem is her gossiping ways and vows to stop speaking. Abandoned by her friends, she must now find a way to survive the abuse and ridicule, without speaking a word. Review: I read Speechless in just a couple of hours last night. Now, I know, that doesn't seem remarkable to most readers, but you have to realize; I have a child, I have a husband, a home and a full time job. I have a thousand things vying for my attention during every minute of the day and I still read this book in one sitting. This story tells of a unique perspective: the popular girl who is part of something horrible and is able to see the error of her ways and actually take an action to become a better person. I loved that even though Chelsea had ruled with fear and ridicule as Kristen's second in command, she was able to see what a horrible person she had been and to recognize that her problem had come from being unable to keep her mouth shut. Her progression from popular princess to actual decent human being is not an easy or quick one. She struggles along the way, but, through her vow of silence, is eventually able to see herself and the people around her in a much more realistic light. I love watching a character grow throughout the book and by the end of Speechless, Chelsea is a much better person, able to see not only the flaws, but also the good in herself and others. The other characters are sweet, if a little underdeveloped. We have two love interests, one sweet and one superficial. Eventually Chelsea is able to distinguish between them and to make the right choice. We also have Asha, the kind and kooky girl who sees the potential in Chelsea and helps her find it herself. Naturally, we also have to deal with the "villians" of the story - Chelsea's former best friend Kristen, who honestly wasn't that nice to her to begin with, and the jocks who torture Chelsea as punishment for ratting out their friends. These characters, particularly Kristen, could have used a little more page time. There were glimmers of potential with her, but it wasn't really explored. The plot is not particularly fast paced. There is a party, some school issues, a romance, some personal growth and a school dance. However, it is very well written and Harrington does an excellent job of writing realistic teenage dialogue, though I wish she had gone a little easy on the vulgar language. Chelsea's journey to self-realization and her dedication to her vow are interesting enough to keep the plot moving and the friendships and romance that develops is sweet, without being overpowering. I would recommend this for most teenagers, but would warn that it includes vulgar language and sexual situations that may not be appropriate for younger teens.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 15 and upGender: FemaleSex: Kissing, Talk of sexual actsViolence: Fist Fighting, Attack on a gay teenInappropriate Language: Piss, Shit, Bitch, Slut, Whore, Fag, Fuck, DickSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use