Tuesday 10 June 2014

Mini-Reviews: Speechless & Anthem for Jackson Dawes

Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Released: 28th August 2012
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

As usual, I'm monstrously late to the bookish party, this one hosted by and for Hannah Harrington and fans.  However, since these parties usually go on for ages - say, years - let's just say the main thing was that I turned up.  Harrington's reputation, combined with a premise that is intriguing for all its apparent simplicity, had me both wary and curious.  Ultimately, it did not disappoint.

The concept of not speaking is a difficult one for me to comprehend.  Despite first appearances, where any number of scenarios may see me sitting/standing/walking/[insert verb here] silently, and for all that I do prefer silence on occasion, I still like to talk.  Many of us like offering our opinions, contributing to discussion, even just making general chitchat.  To actively choose to stop talking, then, as Chelsea does, would be an incredible decision.  My respect for her grew over the course of the book.  At the start, of course, she was a rather typical character, concerned only with maintaining her status within the popular crowd.  Her behaviour was cliché - and deliberately so.  When one fateful decision demonstrates how harmful speech can be, she takes a vow of silence, and this marks the start of some beautiful character progression.  Harrington takes an unlikeable figure and turns her into someone you can't help but sympathise with.  Chelsea grows very gradually, forcing herself to think about things before putting her words out in the open and learning to understand what's important and what isn't.  In watching her struggle to maintain her vow even as she was being bullied and trying to defend others made me root for her all the more.

There is also a very nice secondary cast, ranging from her new friends to the other people at her new job to her parents.  All of these characters are realistic and easy to relate to.  Each friendship is subtly different, progressing in a manner appropriate to the circumstances that surround that friendship.  The romance was slow and sweet and utterly genuine.  Perhaps one of the best relationships was that between Chelsea and her parents.  It was amazing to see how supportive and loving they were of her, despite everything she's put them through.  Even better, it was lovely to see her learn to truly appreciate them.  For a book that focuses on bullying, a topic I normally don't gravitate towards, Harrington has left me impressed with the way in which she deals with such issues, bringing to life a range of characters who themselves are an accurate reflection of life.

It didn't take me long at all to get through this book, and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  Speechless consists of an interesting premise that has been well-executed, and it leaves me feeling grateful that I also have Saving June in my possession.  In fact, this review almost makes me want to re-read this book, so perhaps I'll go and do that as well.

Title: Anthem for Jackson Dawes
Author: Celia Bryce
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Released: 1st January 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm not quite sure what to say about Anthem for Jackson Dawes.  Ordinarily it's not a book I would have picked up, and yet there was something about it that suggested I should perhaps read it anyway.  Certainly it turned out to be a fairly decent read.  The novel centres around Megan and Jackson, both in hospital for cancer treatment.  Despite this, Jackson somehow manages to be energetic and lively and gets along with everyone.  The two soon become close, but Megan in particular has to learn to come to terms with the future.  As protagonists go, she is not a bad one.  On the contrary, her character is likeable and undergoes a slow progression.  Unsurprisingly, it is easy to like Jackson.  His is a vibrant character, and you want to become his friend just as much as those people within the book.  The friendship between Megan and Jackson only intensifies the emotional impact of certain parts of the book.  Going into this you're aware there is the possibility of an ending not entirely happy; in this case it is neither happy nor unhappy, but bittersweet, leaving you holding on to those last few pages.
At the same time, however, this could have been so much more.  I don't know what to say precisely because there's not very much to talk about.  Anthem is a quick read that leaves room for more power and more meaning.   While I liked the characters, and while there was some emotion, it wasn't enough.  To say that the protagonists are likeable is not to say they stand out; Megan especially could have done with a bit more fleshing out.  I wanted to know more about their lives, more about how they were affected - in short, for the book to delve deeper.  In a way its short length does work.  We are afforded a brief glimpse into both their lives, similar to how Megan is afforded a brief glimpse into Jackson's, and for the right reader at the right time, this is enough.  Nor is it completely without power.  What I would venture to say is that this is more of an in-the-moment type read, rather than one that necessarily has a lasting impact.  Coming out of it, I found myself taking away very little.
In sum, then, I thought this book a relatively decent one, but with the possibility of more.  Megan and Jackson's relationship is sweet and does have emotional consequence.  For me personally, I could have done with an added layer that would help make this more memorable and more engaging.  As such, I would recommend it only to those who are looking for something short and (bitter)sweet.


  1. I've had Speechless on my TBR for ages! I really need to move it to the top of my pile soon. Great review! :)

  2. I'm so glad you liked Speechless, Aa'Ishah! I thought it was great, and liked Saving June just as much. I can't wait to see what you think of that one. :) And Anthem for Jackson Dawes is a book that I've been avoiding, because of the cancer element, but I'm glad to hear it was a solid read, even if not one to leave a lasting impression. Great reviews! :)


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