BBW: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson
ISBN-13: 9-780142-414736
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really, really liked it

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it’s been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: “My throat is always sore, my lips raw…. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze…. It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.” What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors’ big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it’s because her parents’ only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she’s been struck mute…

Unlike the other books I’ll be posting abut this week, Speak is actually getting a review (since there aren’t really any banned/challenged stats I can quote). There are a few SPOILERS to be found in this review.

Speak is the story of Melinda, a ninth grader. At first, it seems to just be her story – her journey through the beginning of high school, but as the narrative continues, the reader can’t help but realize there is something much more going on with Melinda than every day life. She’s practically mute, and it’s slowly revealed that an act occured the summer before she started ninth grade that she just can’t talk about, and doesn’t know how to accept or verbalize. Laurie Halse Anderson has a way with words, and her writing flows seamlessly together. Speak is a hard book to put down.

For a book with very little dialogue, characters and character interaction is amazing. Melinda is so completely realized, it’s incredible. By the end of the novel, I felt like I knew Melinda personally. Her internal observations, dialogues, and perceptions give a great insight into her character. Likewise, she has this sarcastic, witty, heartbreakingly sad view of the world and people around her. Melinda’s view on high school is very realized and bleak. The “something” that happened to Melinda in the summer? the reader doesn’t even find out for sure what it is until about two thirds of the way through the novel. If I hadn’t have already known that Melinda had been raped at a party, I would have only been guessing until she finally addresses the topic to herself and a girl who used to be a friend. It’s through time, art, her art teacher, and a need to keep others from hurting as she was hurt that Melinda begins to find, and finds, the strength to speak out and pick up the pieces of her life.

Speak is such a powerful novel. Melinda’s voice comes through loud and clear, and her story is one that can open so many eyes and ears, and help those who have been in Melinda’s shoes. I can’t even adequately explain this book. It’s definitely one that a person needs to read and experience for themselves. All I can say is that Laurie’s writing is powerful, and Melinda’s story is one that needs to be read and heard everywhere.

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