Author: Ava Cates
Published by: Amazon
Publish date: October 17, 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Rating: Four Stars
I have to admit, I was really torn when it came to rating this one. On one hand, the characters and the paranormal aspect of the plot were fantastic. Just loved it.
But on the other hand… oof.
I was strongly tempted to give Speechless three stars. But at the end of the day, I genuinely want to read the next book. I want to know what happens next! So despite the many technical failings, I have to be honest. It’s a four star book that simply lacks polish.
Let’s start with what I loved about this book. First things first: Julia. She is a fantastic MC with an excellent voice and point of view. I loved to love her. I cared about her and wanted to know how her story would turn out.
Her life on the farm was very well fleshed out without being overbearing. And I’m always a sucker for a great brother character/relationship.
It was a breath of fresh air to have a disabled protagonist as well. Her deafness wasn’t just tossed in to make her more interesting. No, we get to experience the everyday struggles of dealing with an unusually complicated social life and having a translator constantly in her business. It was beautifully handled, at least so far as I can tell (not being disabled myself).
And then we have the hunky boys to daydream about. Both Luke and Jeremy are delightful. (I mean, if one is, then the other has to be, right? Read the book to find out why.) The sweet romance element was a great touch to balance out the fantasy side of things.
And speaking of the fantasy, it was original, intriguing, and dramatic. Cates slipped hints to the reader very deliberately to create a slow burn mystery. What exactly is different about Luke? Why can Julia hear his voice in her head?
And the final cherry on top? Ava Cates’s voice is smooth and easy to read. I WANTED to get back to reading this.
So all the building blocks are there for a great fantasy romance. And like I said before, I definitely want to know what happens next for Julia.
But… oof. Though the story, voice, and characters are great, Cates basically stumbles all the way through it. From beginning to end, it’s almost like she doesn’t quite know how to communicate the drama to her readers. Not quite. She’s almost got it, but not quite. She has the talent, but seems to lack the academia of writing a book.
First things first are the typos and grammar errors. This book is in DESPERATE need of an editor. I found many typos, several instances of misused words (who’s instead of whose, etc), and a slew of random commas throughout. I can overlook a handful of mistakes/errors, especially in a self published book. But this was beyond anything I’ve seen in a long time. Especially in a book that has such a lovely, professional-looking cover.
Next was the pacing. Speechless was a fast read, but I basically got whiplash as Julia jumped from one scene to the next at breakneck speed.
And by breakneck, I mean one paragraph she’s at home getting ready for school. Two sentences later, she’s at lunch. The next sentence? Art class. The next paragraph? She’s at work at the cafe. One line of dialogue later, she’s at home again. This happened multiple times, so there were many instances where I simply couldn’t absorb what was happening now before the next thing happened.
And my absolute biggest complaint is the lack of character relationship shown on the page.
The individual characterizations were fantastic. But the interactions between them were fairly shallow. Julia meets Jeremy on the school bus, and then he begins driving her to and from school. Then, that’s literally all they do together. Ride to school together, making chit chat, saying nothing much. And then halfway through the book, Julia suddenly begins describing him as her best friend.
And though it may be true, I simply didn’t see it. I didn’t feel it.
The same was true with Luke. Aside from Julia’s obsession with him, when it came time to interact, there was nothing special. They didn’t have much chemistry on the page. I only knew that Julia kept thinking about him and clearly liked him a lot.
And I honestly simply did not understand the relationship between Julia and Jill, her supposed best friend. Jill is completely in Julia’s corner at first, but then she gets irritated about something and then kind of disappears for the rest of the book.
My final con is that a specific character (which I won’t mention for fear of spoiling something) was inserted almost as an afterthought. He made a handful of appearances toward the end of the book, and the reader is led to believe he will be a major character moving forward. But I couldn’t get a grasp on him. And considering how the book ended, I desperately wanted him to have a better foundation in book one.
This next bit isn’t much of a con, but it was noticeable.
Speechless drew many, MANY parallels to Twilight, which I found amusing.
The first half of the book, not much happened. The MC is fascinated by a beautiful boy who seems to be not quite human. Then at exactly the 50% mark, we get the first mention of danger. Yup, other people like Luke – the not so nice ones – want to hurt Julia.
Luke, the mysterious not-quite-human boy, lives in a house with a bunch of other people like him: his chosen family. Exactly like the Cullens.
There is a love triangle involving shape-shifters. (Sound familiar?)
And Luke even slipped into Julia’s room at night to watch her sleep.
I’ll be honest, I almost stopped reading right there, I was so creeped out by the unknown invasion of her privacy. But I had to be fair, so I continued reading. I would give Cates the opportunity to let Julia find out about it and be justly creeped out as well. By the end of book one, however, Julia still doesn’t know about that little tidbit, so I’ll have to wait until a later book to make sure she doesn’t see it as being romantic.
Any two (or even three) of these cons I could have overlooked. But altogether, they nearly bumped Speechless down to a three.
But at the end of the day, I want to know what happens next. I WANT to read the next book. And that alone is enough to guarantee a four star rating from me. Because that’s the goal, isn’t it? To make people love our stories? Well, I loved this one.
What about you? Did you love Speechless? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out my other reviews before you go.