Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Halse Anderson, Laurie. Speak. Square Fish, 2011.  $9.99, 224 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://madwomanintheforest.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: Outcast because she called the cops to a party over the summer, Melinda doesn’t even have anyone to tell what happened even if she could.

Summary:

Melinda Sordino enters Merryweather High School friendless and alone.  She has been outcast because she called the cops at a party over the summer which resulted in many of her friends being busted for underaged drinking.  Since then, she’s been spiraling downward into depression.  She says very little and bites at her lips until they are scarred and scabbed.  Her parents are always busy with work, communicating in short bursts via post-it notes mostly about dinner.  She has a half-hearted friendship with an annoyingly driven new girl named Heather.  Her teachers are after her to bring up her grades.  And she’s tasked with creating a tree in her art class.  Not to mention IT is still at her school, an everyday reminder of that horrible night at the party.  Can Melinda find her voice in time to save herself?

Evaluation:

Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak is a powerful story.  The characters are realistic, as is the plot itself.  The complex themes about friendship, interpersonal relationships, and finding one’s voice after trauma are implied through the characters’  actions and the events that occur in the novel.  The structure of the novel is mostly chronological.  There are flashbacks to the night of the party and the date rape which make the structure more complex.  The language of the text is contemporary and easy to understand. The point of view is from Melinda’s point of view.  However, she does not reveal what happens even to the reader when she herself cannot deal with what happened.  This builds up the tension and suspense as the reader tries to figure out why Melinda is in the situation she is in.  Dealing with as serious an issue as rape, Anderson does a beautiful job of portraying Melinda, her state of mind, and how she deals with this horrific event.  The readers sympathize with Melinda and cheer her on as she finds her voice and overcomes a second attack.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction

Appeal Factors: date rape, high school life, fitting in, feeling like an outcast, art, facing fears, dealing with trauma

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Cut by Patricia McCormick
  • Staying Fat for Sarah Burns by Chris Crutcher
  • Loesrs by Matthue Burns

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Best Books for Young Adults
  • Printz Award honor
  • National Book Award finalist

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Melinda’s talk with Mr. Freeman
  • The way other students treat Melinda
  • Melinda trying to warn Rachel

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • How does art help Melinda get her voice back?
  • What is the relationship between Melinda’s inability to speak and the lack of anyone to listen?
  • Why does Melinda choose to stay separate from others?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of the controversy that sometimes surrounds it.  I was curious to see why it is protested.  I wanted to see how the date rape and after effects.

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