Book Review: Speak

05 Aug

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publication Date: 10 Anv. Edition March 19, 2009

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): “Speak up for yourself – we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows that this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her.

As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her.

Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In this powerful novel, an utterly believeable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

 My Review: This was an incredible emotional roller coaster of a read and I had tears in my eyes at many points in the book. It’s quite possibly the most powerful book I have read in a long time.

However, it’s so hard to do this book justice in a review without revealing too much of the plot. And it’s incredibly important that each reader experience the emotions that the revelations in the plot bring to life as they happen. Suffice it to say that this book broke my heart repeatedly for Melinda as her story unfolded across the pages.

While Melinda’s inner strength is what ultimately gets her through this dark period in her life she also puts a lot of herself into her art class. It is through her art that she begins to allow herself to experience and show the emotions she’s been fighting so hard to keep away. Her immersion into her art and the safety and freedom that she finds that are what help her to find her voice again

Anderson has written an incredibly thoughtful story that displays a great deal of emotion and pulls the reader directly into it. Plagued by anxiety, depression, and fear throughout the book Melinda still demonstrates a quiet perseverance as she goes about her daily life. As Melinda rarely speaks we depend on the inner monologue Anderson has developed for her that is both insightful and entertaining. Melinda has a quick wit and sarcastic humor and her inner thoughts are, at times, just the break we need from the heavier issues she’s facing.

I wish I could place this book into the hands of every incoming freshman girl and boy in High School to let them know that they too have the courage to speak out. That they possess the ability to help those around them by simply listening to their stories spoken and unspoken and by acknowledging their pain. A lesson that I think every teenager needs to have learned before they leave high school.


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