Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 


by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pages: 224
My rating: ****
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.
As I was reading this, I felt like I had stumbled onto some tortured teenager’s blog. This book wasn’t separated into chapters like most traditional novels. Instead, it was broken into school marking periods, and then again into smaller snippets. Though I didn’t go through the same things that Melinda did in the book, I definitely feel like I could step into her shoes for a bit and feel it right along with her. We all have memories of highschool that we would rather forget, and I think that this novel makes us examine our own pasts. It also is an interesting trip into the mind of a modern teenager. This is not your 1960’s crackerjack pearl-wearing teenager. Melinda is a real person with real problems, just trying to figure out where she fits in society. Regardless of your age, isn’t that just what everyone is trying to do?