At our school each year students present speeches. Our students are given a topic or open idea such as "I wonder...". In Speechless the students also participate in a similar speech competition but there is free choice for their topic.
Joseph Alton Miles (Jelly) has no real interest in this speech event ... "every year, I've mumbled mine as fast as I could and got it over with." What is the difference this year? Well on offer is a wonderful prize pack of a tablet computer with accessories. Jelly's dad does own a computer store but Jelly can only use it for homework and does not own any video games. The initial stages of this competition happen in each classroom. Jelly has a best friend called Parker (PB). "When we were little our mums said we stuck together like the insides of a sandwich. Since Parker Brown's initials are P.B. and mine spell J.A.M. ... well that's why everyone calls me Jelly."
Parker, who this year is in a different class, is convinced Jelly can win the competition and defeat a school bully called Victoria. Jelly works hard with his speech and when the big day comes Victoria makes a very fancy presentation about the conservation of biodiversity in South America. Jelly almost trumps her with his funny and well researched speech about the value of video games. The teacher declares it is a tie.
Meanwhile Jelly has begun some volunteer work at a local food bank. He gradually learns about the people who use and work for this important service and he is able to apply his computer skills to sort out their equipment and spread sheets. Jelly is also trying to cope with Victoria who seems determined to ruin his life and perhaps even have him expelled from school.
For the final round of the speech competition new topics must be selected. I felt certain Jelly would talk about the food bank. I hope you enjoy the surprise ending. If you need to read more about the plot here is a Canadian review. You can read an extract of the book here.
Mook-Sang has created a hapless, lovable hero who is easy to relate to. He keeps his wry sense of humour, even as his life crashes and burns. She has perfectly captured the twelve-year-old boy’s experience of life: he loses the power of speech when confronted with pretty girls, teachers and she-devils like Victoria