SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

20 Nov

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GENRE: Realistic Fiction

HONORS: 2000 Printz Honor Book, National Book Award Finalist,

REVIEW: Sometimes speaking the truth leaves you without anyone to listen at all. That’s what happens to Melinda Sordino, a teen with friends, plans, and an exciting high school experience ahead of her. Until a wild summer party when she gets raped by a popular senior. She calls the cops but flees and never reports the crime. But plenty of other kids who were there get in trouble—and blame her. So on Melinda’s first day of school, she’s an outcast, her friends have abandoned her and she finds herself more and more unable to talk about anything to anyone. As the year progresses, she finds expression through her art class and when her former best friend starts dating her rapist, she finally decides to speak out. And finally, people listen.

OPINION: Anderson’s first novel is powerful and moving, an anthem of sorts for anyone who’s been quieted by bullies, aggressors, or belittlers of any kind. It takes a while to understand what causes Melinda to be ostracized and there are points when one can’t help but be annoyed with her lack of confidence. Why is she letting people treat her like that? But as she slowly reveals what happened, we can all understand her victimization and why she’s retreated into herself. The parallel between her art project and finding her voice to speak out is poignant and something many teens can relate to—creativity can definitely build confidence. The end is a little too neat and tidy compared to many similar real life situations, but as a metaphor for strength over adversity, Speak is beautifully done.

IDEAS: This book would be a powerful read for teens discussing bullying or victimization of any kind. It would also be helpful for teens in distress, especially victims of rape or sexual abuse.    

 

 

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