I first came across SPEECHLESS after winning a copy on Rosi Hollinbeck’s wonderful blog. I couldn’t wait to read it, but I had a half dozen publisher requests and commitments from the CYBILS finalist’s pile. Over the next several months the book received praise from other great blogging sites like Children’s Books Heal and Read Wonder. Last month SPEECHLESS finally reached the top of my pile and I’m glad it did.
I like when authors take chances and steer away from the typical way of presenting scenes leading up to a climatic ending. Thirteen-year-old Jimmy narrates the story and it begins as he and his parents arrive at the wake for Jimmy’s cousin, Patrick. Jimmy has always despised his cousin, a misunderstood boy who spent a lifetime ruining birthday celebrations, holidays, and almost any other day the two of them were together. Here’s the kick start: Jimmy has been chosen to give the eulogy at Patrick’s funeral the next day.
The book divides itself with backstory about their relationship and the present day preparations Jimmy tries to make in writing a speech of respect for a kid he least respected. The author fits the two together in perfect harmony. Throughout the pages, difficult themes of mental illness, alcoholism, and abuse are handled so middle grade readers will empathize and understand. The end of course is Jimmy making his speech and it’s a winner.
Yes, there are many Patrick’s in the world today who need someone to listen what’s going on inside them. I hope this story will encourage many to do just that and not remain speechless. Come October and the next nomination round for CYBILS, this one is at the top of my list.
AUTHOR BIO (From Adam’s website)
I’ve lived outside of Chicago my entire life, currently in the town of Oswego, IL where the race of suburbia meets the quiet of farm country. My wife and I met on a blind date, one of the worst either of us ever had. I’m so grateful she agreed to a second. We have two boys (Aidan, Anderson) who keep us busy with sports, cat videos, and traveling anywhere we can. My days are spent as an educator in a middle school, my nights as a husband and father, my weekends as a writer.
I began writing Speechless a few years ago after witnessing a profound moment at a wake of someone taken all too soon. It stayed with me until I wrote it down and the characters grew from the seed. In 2016 Speechless gained traction and was selected as a finalist for the middle grade category of a manuscript contest. After working with through revisions with my mentor, I was offered representation from Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management. Marcy helped Speechless find a home at Candlewick Press.
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