Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

SpeakLaurie Halse AndersonYA ContemporaryPuffin BooksApril 20, 2006Paperback208

“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.

Melinda Sordino enters high school as a social pariah and is ostracized by her peers who don’t know her dark secret– they only know the she called the police to a summer party. Now Melinda is silent, unable to “speak” (even though she is technically a selective mute). This story is about her road to confession. She finds a way to express herself through Mr. Freeman’s art class and turns a secret janitor’s closet into a shrine to art, safe haven, and a home away from home.

Written as vignettes, the story only emphasizes certain events (sometimes with large gaps in between) which can make it feel like a choppy read, but the visceral imagery makes the reader suffer with Melinda and root for her empowerment.I would not read this without asking someone to talk to. When I read it the summer between 4th and 5th grade, I had nightmares, so I suggest having a reading buddy, a parent, or other adult be there for you in case you need help coping with this tough story.

There is also a good movie version starring Kristen Stewart (before Twilight) as Melinda Sordino.

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