Thursday, October 7, 2010

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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...

Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. The triumphant ending, in which Melinda finds her voice, is cause for cheering (while many readers might also shed a tear or two). After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person--who may be screaming beneath the silence.

{taken from}

I may be 10 years late on reading this book, but I'm so glad I finally did!  It's come across my book suggestions many times & a few friends had recommended it to me as well.  But it wasn't until I read an article by Wesley Scroggins, where he stated that Speak should be banned from schools due to it's pornographic nature expressed through the book's rape scenes.  I'm sorry, what?!  What sicko thinks rape is something to be classified as sexually exciting?  (to read the article in further detail, click here.)  I assumed I would be against his allegations, but I wanted to read the book for myself and form my own opinion.  My assumptions were correct.

Laurie Halse Anderson does a superb job of taking you inside the mind of a battered teenage girl's mind who has been left out to dry.  The story of Melinda begins on her first day of high school and already you can feel her heavily guarded, empty soul that has somehow been taken from her with out her permission.  As the story unfolds we see that Melinda is alone in her world.  Her parents are too busy with work & their own lives that they miss their own daughter falling rapidly in to a deep, dark hole that she may never find herself out of again.  Melinda has no friends.  They all assume she is terrible for busting their end of summer party and shun her for what she's done.  But do they even stop to ask why she called the cops?  What terrified Melinda so badly to make such a serious phone call?  No one asks any questions.  Everyone just continues to walk all over Melinda and treat her as the dirt beneath their shoes.  This pushes her further down in to that deep hole.  As the story continues Melinda teaches herself it's easier to stay quiet, than to say anything aloud.  Finding a voice only brings fear.  She can never speak about what happened that night.  She chooses to ignore it, in hopes it will all just go away.

But it never goes away.  It only boils just under the surface until it's too hot, and all the pain & shame is too much for her to carry anymore in silence.  This book is about finding your voice.  It teaches young girls that it is NEVER ok to accept someone hurting you, someone raping you. No one has the right to your body without your permission.  This story also sends the message to parents, teachers, and other adults of the signs to look for when a child is pulling away.  Always ask questions and never assume they are just "fine".  Because you never know what is happening behind that guard they are so heavily protecting themselves with.  

In regards to the statement made by Scroggins in the earlier article, I believe this book belongs in high schools everywhere.  I wish there were more books written like this.  It gives the honest truth to what can happen, what unfortunately does happen.  It then gives the message that speaking up about it is the only way to get through it.  I can't imagine how many lives this story has touched & helped through some very dark days.  I give a lot of credit to Laurie Halse Anderson for creating something beyond just literature, and helping those who can't speak find their voice once again.



  1. great review! Speak is one of my all time favorite books! Glad you loved it too.

  2. This is a most wonderful review *claps*

    I recently wrote one as well. Speak was such a great book!

    Visit me sometimes... I'm a new follower.

    Mad Scientist

  3. What a wonderful review! I have heard of this book, but didn't know what it was about. I agree with you too. Books need to be left in schools and public places. If someone is offended by a book they may share that opinion and leave it to others to choose whether or not to follow that suggestion. I've never believed in taking away someone's right to read something, and I've never believed in forcing someone to read something. Reading is something that should be a personal descision.

    As far as the subject matter goes for this book (please forgive me for being a bit personal), but out of my group of four closest best friends in high school, three of us were date raped. This is a horrible thing that continues to happen. Sometimes books are the only thing a girl feels like she can related to. Instead of telling people to shut up over taboo issues, we need to learn to speak up so it doesn't have to happen to someone else!

    Thank you for your review. I will be adding this book to my TBR. (Getting off my soapbox now!) I'm a new follower!

    The Delusional Diaries

  4. I recently just bought this book because I've seen and heard good things about it. Thank you for a good review.

  5. The book and movie are amazing.


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