Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Book Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Published Date: August 28th, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Harlequin Teen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

This book was very interesting. It was very slow at first and I was wondering if I was going to be really invested in the book. Chelsea was very unlikable for the first 25% of the book. I wasn’t sure why she was like this. But then I remembered how important someone’s image was in high school. As someone who graduated high school ten years ago, I found myself extremely irritated by Chelsea and the other people in her little group.

It wasn’t until she took her vow of silence that I really started to warm up to her. Combined with her burgeoning friendship with Asha and Sam, Dex and Lou and later on, Andy and Noah. She started to realize that yes she was a good person and it was the fact that she spoke up against two popular guys in high school that made her realize that.

“It means I’m not heartless.I’m a decent person. I am.” -Chelsea-

But it was the lessons learned from Noah and Andy that stuck with me the most. They reminded me that hating someone is too easy. It’s easy to hate someone. Anger and hurt are easier things to feel than love. Love takes a shitload of courage and it’s definitely something that I’ve struggled with. When I love someone, I love someone completely and wholly. But it’s hard as hell to let your guard down enough to let someone in. Noah and Andy also worked on forgiving Chelsea as well as the other people involved and that was really important to see and read.

This book also teaches us about friendships and that is another subject I’ve struggled with in my twenties. The idea that friendships can change and evolve and that it’s important to grow and change, but not to the point where you lose yourself. Friendships should mean more than just superficial things.

“Talking about all that stuff is okay in moderation-but friendships should mean something more.”

Speechless, and more specifically, Sam, reminded me that in relationships the couples don’t have to have lots in common in order for it to work. It’s who a person is, both separate and apart, that ties people together. That idea was very hard for Chelsea to understand as she can see the differences between herself and Sam and she was not sure if they were compatible or if they were too different to make it work.

This book crept up on me like a lion creeps up on his prey. Slowly at first and then it took off. From about halfway through the book, I could tell it was going to be a special book and it definitely delivered in a big way. I am so bummed it took me so long to read it, but I’m thrilled that I finally read it. I am giving it 5 stars and I definitely think you should read it.

Review: Random by Tom Leveen

Book Title: Random
Author: Tom Leveen
Publish Date: August 12th, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble 
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Who’s the real victim here? This tense and gripping exploration of cyberbullying and teen suicide is perfect for fans of Before I Fall andThirteen Reasons Why.

Late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It’s a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line.

He asks for a single thing—one reason not to kill himself.

The request plunges her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he’ll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can’t help but suspect the caller is a fraud. But what if he’s not? Her words alone may hold the power of life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger—and maybe redeem herself—leading to a startling conclusion that changes everything…

Disclaimer: I received this book from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book had so much potential to force the reader to take a good, hard look at how they treat others and how their actions can have devastating consequences. I was excited about this one and I wanted to love it so badly, but it just didn’t work for me.

This book was very short, but it was also very fast paced, something that I would have liked a lot if the book itself had been compelling, which it was not. I found that I was forcing myself to read this book, in the hope that it would somehow start getting better and better as the book continued.

But I was utterly bored through the majority of it. There seemed to be a disproportionate amount of dialogue to the rest of the book. I wanted less dialogue. I mean, I know lots of dialogue would be necessary for this book, but I wanted more scene setting and descriptive language.

None of the characters really intrigued me either. Tori was a bitch who clearly didn’t understand that, yes, she was partially to blame for the death of someone she knew. Andy & Noah were both boring as hell. The character development was pretty much non-existent. I know it can be hard to develop the characters fully in such a short book, but the author didn’t even try to develop them at all. They were all very one-dimensional, which bummed me out big time.

I thought for the longest time that Andy was screwing with her and that he wasn’t actually serious about his plans to commit suicide. Which of course, enraged me even more. Committing suicide is not something to joke about. Just the idea of that makes me so mad all over again. It’s serious stuff not to be taken lightly. I wish more people would realize that. It’s not a joke, it’s not funny. I didn’t think I would have such a strong negative reaction to this book, but I did.

The revelation at the end also pissed me off. I could not believe that the author took the story this way. It felt like the entire book was a complete waste of time and it made me wonder why the heck I had forced myself to read this book if it was going to end this way. 

This book was a colossal waste of my time and I am so upset because it really had the power to be something fantastic, but it was horribly executed. I’ll be giving this book 1.5 stars.

Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Book Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Published Date: April 29th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

Disclaimer: This was a library book.

It was no secret that I couldn’t finish my e-ARC of this book. It was too personal and as a former victim of bullying, I couldn’t swallow it without remembering my own experience with bullies and the acts of bullying I was subjected to. After talking to a few blogger friends, specifically Jamie, I decided to get it from the library and give it another shot. 

This book really doesn’t have a lot of decent characters, but thankfully, I don’t need the book to have decent, likable characters in order for me to actually like the book. Sara was not a likable character. She was beyond mean to Emma, she refused to see where she had done wrong and she didn’t see how it was a double standard of sorts for her to call Emma names, but heaven forbid Emma do anything like talk to Sara’s boyfriend. I do think Sara was a redeemable character which is much more than I can say for Brielle.

Brielle was the instigator of this stuff. She was always the one to come up with these “pranks” to hurt Emma and I think Sara, though she prided herself on knowing how to stand up for herself, was very much a follower. I think Brielle kind of controlled Sara and while I know Sara should have put an end to it, I don’t think she was brave enough to. 

In high school you have all of these expectations about sex and if you don’t measure up, then you are considered “weird” or “stupid” even “frigid” and “prude”

“I don’t- I mean everyone has sex.” -Sara-
“Not everyone does in high school.” -Teresa-
“Well they’re supposed to.” -Sara-

See, what did I say? Expectations.
The ending was my favorite part. Watching Sara realize exactly how she contributed to Emma’s suicide was a very satisfying journey. I would actually argue that Sara’s storyline was the most compelling part of the entire book. Watching her realize that yes she was to blame. So was Brielle. Her statement at the end of the book made me sob. It was beautiful and eloquent.
The split timeline was sometimes difficult to follow, and it was definitely hard for me to read sometimes. The flashbacks to where Brielle & Sara bullied Emma was hard for me to read because I’ve been in Emma’s position before and it was awful. High school was absolute hell and sometimes I begged for it to be over. I’ll be honest, yes I did think about suicide, but I never attempted it. 
I ended up enjoying this book more than I expected to. It was an important book and it was a book that transported me back to high school, a place I never, ever wanted to return to. I think high school students need to read this book. They need to know that their words can hurt. They need to know that their actions can hurt. 4 stars to this book that told the story from the point of view of the bully.

Review: Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl & Ali Benjamin

Book Title: Positive: A Memoir
Authors: Paige Rawl & Ali Benjamin
Publish Date: August 26th, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Memoir
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
An astonishing memoir for the untold number of children whose lives have been touched by bullying. Positive is a must-read for teens, their parents, educators, and administrators—a brave, visceral work that will save lives and resonate deeply.

Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. On an unremarkable day in middle school, she disclosed to a friend her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. From that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Paige was never sure when or from where the next text, taunt, or hateful message would come. Then one night, desperate for escape, fifteen-year-old Paige found herself in her bathroom staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.

That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning. Paige’s memoir calls for readers to choose action over complacency, compassion over cruelty—and above all, to be Positive.

Disclaimer: I got this ARC in an exchange with another blogger. Thanks again Lili.

Words cannot express how much I loved this book. I am going to try and do it justice but I doubt I will. Paige Rawl’s experience was so much like my own in middle school that sometimes I had to put the book away and just concentrate on breathing before I broke down in sobs. And sometimes I sobbed anyway. 

Having a life-threatening illness myself, I have often felt isolated and kids in school (middle school and especially high school) treated me like garbage. And no one ever did anything to help me. In middle school, I was told “boys will be boys” as they called me awful names, pulled chairs out from under me, used their height and size to overpower me as I tried to leave the room. No punishment was ever doled out to them.

And in high school, especially my sophomore & junior years, it was even worse. Boys would hide my wheelchair so I couldn’t walk very far, they would call me names and tell me my mom should have killed me. They sprayed their disgusting cologne into my backpack so no one would come near me. 

They even started harassing my mom. 

But the worst incident came on February 13th, 2003. I was heading to class when one of them shoved his shoe into the spokes of my wheelchair. Of course I couldn’t move so I tried to pull the shoe out of the spokes. He kept a hold of the shoe so it wouldn’t come out. I grabbed his wrist and he pulled away, and when that happened, the wheelchair tipped over with me still inside of it. 

There was also an incident with pudding being hurled at me from across the room. I remember that because that was the first time I had people helping me. One person ran to get a teacher and 3 girls followed me into the bathroom to help me clean up. 

At this time I was in a private school with a supposed “zero tolerance for bullying” statement. However, the boys who taunted me were from families with a lot of money. The high school was small so of course nothing was ever done to them. Senior year was much better as we had a new principal who was on my side 100% and he finally came through for me.
Reading all about what Paige went through took me straight back to middle school and high school. I remembered all too well the desperation I felt when no one would stick up for me. I remember feeling so angry and so sad that people were too afraid of the bullies, too afraid of losing money to stand up and do what was right.
I had teachers like Miss Ward who wouldn’t defend me and who would actually blame me even though I was simply trying to defend myself. So I definitely understood Paige’s frustration there. I really think Paige must have been in my head because so much of what she wrote about were things I experienced.We have different health problems but we still faced bullying every single day. Except for the different health problems, I feel like I could have written this exact book with so many of the same things happening to me.
I spent the majority of the book in tears and wanting to give Paige a big hug. This book needs to be in every school library. This book needs to be required reading for students and educators alike. Bullying is still such a widespread issue and I don’t think enough is being done to protect the students. I absolutely adored this book and it’s getting 5 stars. It was raw, honest and emotional, exactly the way I was hoping it would be.