Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication: Square Fish; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)

Description: The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"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 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 Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable 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.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

My Thoughts: This classic YA novel tells the story of a girl who was raped at a high school party and goes silent to cope with it. Melinda called 911 after being raped at a party but was unable to tell what had happened to her. She has become an outcast for calling 911 which led to arrests. Now that school is starting again, she is trying to survive with no friends in a very hostile environment.

New girl Heather becomes her only friend but Heather is only using her until she finds her "people." Her parents don't seem to notice that she is having troubles until the school sends out report cards and they see that her grades are dropping and that she is skipping classes and not doing homework. However, rather than asking what's wrong and supporting her, they react by getting angry with her and with each other.

The teachers at the school also seem to be oblivious to Melinda's needs. The English teacher and Social Studies teacher both seem to have taken Melinda in dislike. Her only place of refuge is her Art class which has its own frustrations as the topic she drew to concentrate on for the year is "trees." The art teacher does provide some support but has his own issues with his job and the school board.

I liked Melinda's voice. She has an outsider's view at the daily happenings of her high school which seemed obsessed this year with choosing a new mascot. I liked watching her grow and find her own agency as the year progressed.

Favorite Quote:
Two hundred questions later, I get my results. I should consider a career in (a) forestry (b) firefighting (c) communications (d) mortuary science. Heather's results are clearer. She should be a nurse. It makes her jump up and down. 
I bought this one Feb. 20, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

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