Book Review: Speak

Speak

Title/Author: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Psychological, Depression, Abuse, Standalone

Published: October 22, 1999 by Puffin

Paperback, 200 pages

How I Got The Book: I actually bought a copy of this over the summer for $1 at a used book store. SO WORTH IT!

Why I Picked It Up?: Because I have heard that this is one of the most beautiful and powerful books written for Young Adults, and I just needed to read it.

Book Jacket Blurb: “Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.”

Thoughts:

Simply put, I believe that this is one of the most powerful books of the YA cannon.

Melinda has stopped speaking to most people. She has so many thoughts, so many emotions racing around her head, but she just can’t say them aloud. It doesn’t help that she has started high school and none of her friends are talking to her anymore. Why? Because she made a phone call, and now everyone hates her. Except the new girl, who doesn’t know any better.

This story is told completely introspectively–meaning, most of the story is narrated in Melinda’s head, incorporating her own thoughts and feelings and interpretations. This is very much Melinda’s story, with character being called by the nicknames she gives them. I felt that this style of narration was perfect for this story, as the center revolves around the psychological reactions to the events of summer. The tone of the narrative style was so perfect for this story–it adds so much more meaning and emotion in the text.

Here is the thing about this book, and specifically Melinda as a main character–she is not someone that you will necessarily connect with (or even like). Because she has gone through something so traumatic, her actions (or lack of action) can sometimes be frustrating to the reader. But the thing with Melinda is, this is all a coping mechanism. Her lack of speaking up is how she is dealing with her trauma emotionally and psychologically. Throughout the course of this novel, the reader will develop so much empathy. I found myself completely heart-broken, wanting to just pick her up and hold her and tell her that I see her, that I hear her.

There are so many things I could say about the supporting characters in this story. How frustrating it is that her parents don’t see how she is hurting. How infuriating it is for “friends” to completely drop her (though this is so incredibly realistic, especially for high school freshmen. It frustrated me when I was a freshman, and it frustrates me now). How life-saving a classmate’s annoyed attention can be. How impactful a teacher can be when he pays a little bit of attention….I will just be vague, because if you have read it, you know; if you haven’t, I don’t want to tell you much.

Honestly, the thing that I really appreciated the most about my edition of this book was the interview with Laurie Halse Anderson in the back. She talks about her experiences after this book is published with her readers, both girls and boys. And that interview was so insightful into the culture we have created today. Those few pages at the end are just as important as the story, to me.

This is an important story. It is a powerful story. It is one that needs to be told, and told again. It needs to be shared with everyone, with the hopes that it may empower someone to get help, or teach someone what violence really is. An overwhelmingly emotional story with an overwhelming truth.

My Bookshelf Rating:

5shelfA Top Shelf Book!

Through her lyrical writing style, Laurie Halse Anderson tells a story that is hard to hear and impossible to forget. A powerful story filled with so much overwhelming emotion, this story will just break your heart again and again. And then it will break your heart when you think about how many people have stories like this. A realistic depiction of a very horrific yet real story. There is so much emotion packed in this short novel. Definitely one that everyone should read, because it is that important.

Love and Red Velvet Donuts,
Jennifer

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Speak

  1. bcassady says:

    I had a similar reaction. So many elements were infuriating – yet they were necessary to convey a realistic portrayal of today’s culture and plausible reactions to the scenarios presented in the novel. (I’m sounding super cryptic in my attempts to avoid a spoiler…) It’s simply a darker story due to its subject matter. It sort of killed me that the few moments you could consider “happy” in this book were so fleeting, though. Perhaps that’s why they got Kristen Stewart to play Melinda in the film adaptation. Fitting…

    • alibrarianslibrary says:

      Yeah…..I did watch the film, and actually thought it was a pretty good adaptation. It seemed to be a role she could actually play, because she only needed one face…..heh.

      And yes, sometimes life is infuriating and hard, and those are the stories that need to be told, too. Which is why, at the end, I appreciated it and loved it for being so real.

    • alibrarianslibrary says:

      In the interview in the back of my copy, Ms. Anderson addresses how she has witnessed her book impacting high schoolers, both boys and girls. It taught them so much about the impact of sexual violence, which is why I think it is extremely important for all teens to read and talk about.

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