“I lost everything and she gets to run for fucking Snow Princess. It’s such bullshit. High school, the world. All of it.”
This book. This brilliant little book.
I really should just put in a corny one-liner how its brilliance has rendered me speechless and call it a day.
A story about a girl who took a vow of silence after divulging one too many secrets to one too many wrong people, leading to a horrible incident that nearly cost a boy's life... all for the sake of that high school ambrosia that is popularity. In a moment of clarity, Chelsea Knott made a choice that made her social stock plummet. From being the best friend of the most popular girl in school to being the entire student body's favorite abuse punching bag. Having been left to suffer the consequences of her choice in her silence, Chelsea forges the unlikeliest of friendships and finds the true meaning of the word.
WHAT IS THIS?! JERRY MAGUIRE?!?!
(By the way, the Tom Cruise Couch jumping incident figures somewhere in the story and... oh my god, knowing that, why are you even still reading this and not this book?!)
In lesser hands, this could easily have been an after school special on bullying and homophobia. A soapbox moment wouldn't have been out of place in a high school setting with all its illogical hierarchy and twisted teenage philosophy. The mood was right, the characters were all ripe for the picking to move you.
It could've taken the easier route of overused gimmickry, power dialogues and
show me the money lines.
But it doesn't.
You don't get manipulated by sentiments over inanimate objects to cry. Instead it moves you by facing a person's capacity to be cruel just because they can and another's capacity to forgive just because they can. Of finding happiness when and where you least expect it and, just to top off my inexplicable love of obscure cliches, finding your voice in the midst of all the cafeteria noise. In the most restrained, honest, age-appropriate manner.
You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. You can be the most popular person in school, envied by every girl and wanted by every boy, and still feel completely worthless. The world can be laid at your feet and you can still not know what you want from it.
Hannah Harrington made it look so easy you wonder why books like these are so hard to come by.
Outside the rather caricature depiction of the teachers and the high school itself and a few cliches that I wasn't too thrilled but not entirely bothered by (i.e. the high school dance and the inline skating), I have very little to complain about. I loved all the characters: Awesome Asha of the Asymptotes and Sam of the Crooked Smiles and Tuna Melt (and dorky glasses! Hnngggg!). Andy's story about Noah gave me scratchy throat number one and Chelsea's parents gave me scratchy throat number two. Chelsea's reason for choosing to do what she did for Noah? Scratchy throat and sniffles.
If you like seeing growth in your characters at a believable pace and manner, you cannot go wrong with Chelsea Knott. I liked that despite her misguided teen logic in the beginning, you know that there's bones in that girl. Her wit and unique opinion oneverything was endearing without trying. I liked how she gradually won me over page by page. She's not a shallow teenage nightmare, she's just starting to learn the difference between knowing the path and walking the path (yes, I just went Morpheus all over that).
“It’s like what those cheesy action-movie heroes always say before they finish taking out the bad guys: I started this, and I’m going to finish it. Except even in the movie of my own life, I’ve never been the heroine. I’ve never been Action Girl. I’ve only ever been Kristen’s supporting character.”
Despite the heaviness of the subject, it was a pretty easy and enjoyable read. The depths and brilliance of which could just be taken at face value or be better appreciated by recognizing that if you allow it, life can be an endless John Hughes film. If we allow it, we can all still be in high school, trapped and trying to find a way out of it by finally growing up. The mean girls who talk sh*t behind your back and the sleazeballs who try to take advantage of you... they just get meaner and sleazier. Meanwhile we do what we can to survive next period, either by not speaking, paying attention to life's lessons or ignoring and talking over the teachers while we fumble around to find an escape.
As I drive away, I'm hit with a sudden wave of sadness. But it's a distant kind of sad - like when you look at your Barbies and realize that you don't want to play with them anymore, because you're growing up and you'e moved on, and in your heart you know it's time to make room for other things.
And this book, this brilliant little book, with the small, uncomplicated silence of its narrator may just be the exit strategy we've all been looking for.