I hated this book in high school. All I remembered for the longest was this scene of a girl and her bed with stuffed animals, going to scream in her closet. When I think about it now, I know it’s because I’ve always hated to be forced to read books, as I was at the time.
Summary: “Speak” is about a girl named Melinda who has a secret… At a party the summer before her freshman year, Melinda is raped by one of the most popular boys at school. Only, no one knows, and she’s afraid to tell her parents. This is normally not a book that I would pick up, but after reading it again out of high school on my own (and no I’m not sure why I picked it up), I fell in love with it. I suppose for me it was the aesthetics; the book was
so beautifully written relatable because of Melinda’s voice. She was real. Not only that, despite such a dark and lonely book, it was funny and interesting. We had to watch as Melinda navigated through her freshman year being hated by the populars, the mediocre crowd, and even those who pitted themselves against the popular and the lowest of the lowest. She became THE outcast, sure and to the point, and had NO ONE to confide in. With the help of her teacher, an outcast in his own rights, she learns how to open up.
Now: I love this book.
Recommended Audience would be middle school and high school students, and is even applicable for adults.
It is difficult to find weaknesses in this book. I just wish the boy who raped Melinda would’ve gotten more than he did in the terms of punishment. As for strengths, this book has a very distinct voice, as do most of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books. You can get a sense of her voice in the very first sentence of the book, “It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new note-books, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache” (Anderson, pg. 3).
My Reflections: This book relates to teens who have a hard time opening up about something traumatic that has happened to them. Not only does it teach others how to overcome and express themselves in times of great trial, it also teachers readers how to be sympathetic as well as have a sense of what may be going on to their peers who resemble people like Miranda in their life. I think people enjoy it for those reasons, but it’s also in the sense of YA entertainment, a good read. It delivers relatable characters, suspense, and wit.
When I see other YA, or even middle grade books, I can evaluate them based on books like this one to see if they deliver. I can see if they’ll be helpful to young teens and be more cognizant about where they belong in a library as well as acknowledge these type of books monthly just as when we acknowledge Black History Month or other important events.
Laurie’s Website: http://madwomanintheforest.com/
EXCERPT taken from Laurie Halse Anderson’s website:
FIRST MARKING PERIOD
WELCOME TO MERRYWEATHER HIGH
It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.
The school bus wheezes to my corner. The door opens and I step up. I am the first pickup of the day. The driver pulls away from the curb while I stand in the aisle. Where to sit? I’ve never been a backseat wastecase. If I sit in the middle, a stranger could sit next to me. If I sit in the front, it will make me look like a little kid, but I figure it’s the best chance I have to make eye contact with one of my friends, if any of them have decided to talk to me yet.
The bus picks up students in groups of four or five. As they walk down the aisle, people who were my middle-school lab partners or gym buddies glare at me. I close my eyes. This is what I’ve been dreading. As we leave the last stop, I am the only person sitting alone.
The driver downshifts to drag us over the hills. The engine clanks, which makes the guys in the back holler something obscene. Someone is wearing too much cologne. I try to open my window, but the little latches won’t move. A guy behind me unwraps his breakfast and shoots the wrapper at the back of my head. It bounces into my lap—a Ho-Ho.
We pass janitors painting over the sign in front of the high school. The school board has decided that “Merryweather High—Home of the Trojans” didn’t send a strong abstinence message, so they have transformed us into the Blue Devils. Better the Devil you know than the Trojan you don’t, I guess. School colors will stay purple and gray. The board didn’t want to spring for new uniforms.
Older students are allowed to roam until the bell, but ninth-graders are herded into the auditorium. We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders. I am clanless. I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn’t go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.
I am Outcast.
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