When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.
“I have never heard a more eloquent silence.”
A noteworthy forerunner in the teen “Issues” subgenre, and one of the first to so directly confront rape.
This is an indisputably important book. It offered insight and acknowledgement on an all-too-frequent trauma, and some common mental consequences associated with it—managing to do so before “rape culture” became a household term. And it tackled the subject matter with a tact that didn’t intrude upon candor realistic to the age and experience of the main character. For that, I will forever applaud it.
The story is written in journal-like style, told solely from Melinda’s first-person POV. It is technically a quick read, though there are times it really drags and the plot itself stalls. One could argue that this is partially the point—the result of Melinda’s depression and attempts to work through her trauma on her own. But the excess of mundane details and uneventful daily routine descriptions don’t really propel the prose.
The writing is spare and simple. Melinda’s emotional state and naivety comes off as 2-3 years younger than the average 15-years old, despite some effort made at dropping 50-cent words. Although, I would argue this helps make the content more relatable to both Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. (The lack of graphic details regarding the actual rape also makes this a safer mode for introducing the topic and promoting serious discussion with readers as young as 12—in this reviewer’s opinion.)
Anderson captures all the isolating pettiness and narcissism of high school social dynamics—albeit via sometimes painfully stereotypical means. (The football players are, of course, the bullies. The football coach is a vicious, one-dimensional meathead. Melinda’s parents are clueless and flat—total non-factors in helping her get anywhere with her depression and acting out. The art teacher is eccentric and vivacious—the closest thing to sympathetic in the entire realm of Melina’s experience with adults.) And so, as far as fresh or original writing goes, the book doesn’t really stand out. Yet, it holds enough overall value that I wouldn’t regret handing it to one of my goddaughters in the hopes that it would open the door to difficult but necessary conversations.
Note: I would recommend Courtney C. Steven’s Faking Normal as a similar story alternative—for readers who may prefer stronger writing and more characterization depth.
I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. I was absolutely blown away by Speak. Melinda's struggle is so gut-wrenching that you feel for her every single page. Ms. Anderson tackles a difficult subject and manages to do it with honesty and empathy. I wanted to reach through the pages and give Melinda a giant hug.
Speak is one of those books that you have to read.
A review long overdue
I've been meaning to review Speak for ages. It is a wonderful book on a really terrible topic that manages to keep a sense of humor while simultaneously horrifying the reader.
Melinda, the main character in the book, called the police at a huge party right before the start of her high school career. No one, not even her old friends, will forgive her and she turns into a social pariah. Her only contact with others is with a perky (and kind of annoying) new girl, an art teacher, and her parents (who are going through problems of their own).
Something happened the night of the party that made Melinda call the police, but Melinda is bound up in a silence so intense and so internal, that she just can't say the words. It isn't until the end of the book, after a shocking incident in which she displays her hidden strength, that she is able to finally get the words out.
Ms. Anderson's portrayl of high school life, cliques, and one student's terrible fear is right on target. Even if your problem is less serious than Melinda's, you can still identify with her and what she experiences. We've all been there at one time or another, when we kept our silence through fear (or other reasons).
I highly recommend this book to girls of all ages, and to boys as well, though they aren't the target audience. You may notice that I've been intentionally vague in this review; if you really want to know what happened before reading the book, feel free to read reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The author very effectively holds that knowledge back from the reader for some time, and I hate to be the one to spoil it for a reader new to the book.
It's a fast read.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The novel opens with Melinda Sordino starting her high school freshman year. She has been ostracised by her friends and fellow students after she called the cops at a summer party. It is clear that something happened. I think most readers will be able to predict what happened at the party but I won’t spoil it.
At school Melinda is befriended by a new girl Heather, only to later be ditched for ‘the Marthas’ a group of popular girls.
She becomes more depressed (Melinda is probably suffering from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder) and begins to skip school and frequently challenges parental and authority figures, who see her silence simply as attention seeking behaviour.
There are also literary parallels with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), which Melinda is studying in English. Hester Prynne, the central character of The Scarlet Letter, like Melinda is a social outcast. Melinda also has a poster of author / poet Maya Angelou in her closet. Angelou was a outsider like Melinda and her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) had been banned by the school.
The novel is written in first person and almost reads like Melinda’s diary. Anderson uses a non-linear narrative with flashbacks disrupting the present. This fragmented narrative structure illustrates Melinda’s depressed state and the trauma she has suffered.
Also what is interesting is that Melinda works through her depression and PSTD herself without seeking professional help, although she does receive support from her lab partner David Petrakis and her art teacher Mr. Freeman.
This coming-of-age problem novel is about a young woman finding her own voice, and speaking up and allowing the truth to set her free. It is a powerful piece of writing for a debut novel.
In 2004 a film version directed by Jessica Sharzer starring Kristin Stewart screened at the Sundance Film Festival and screened on Showtime and Lifetime the following year.
I was going to rate this book 3 stars. I already knew what happened to Melinda so it kinda spoiled the suspance for me. I couldn't wait to get to the point in which the story would get "juicy" so I rushed the first part. It was my fault and I'm sorry about that. The ending though was what convinced me to add the fourth star.
"I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way?"
Melinda is a character you end up caring for. She's in pain, she hides a secret she's scared to share with the world. She gets bullied and betrayed. Everybody sees she's unwell but nobody cares to understand her. It was just heartbreaking and unfair. Her journey is an awful one, she has to face her former friend growing up without her, hating her for a fault she doesn't have, and has to face the cause of her nightmares everyday at school. When she gets better it is because she decides to get better, she is tired of being passive, of being the scared rabbit who runs away when things get bad. She rationalize her pain, understand she's been through something bad and that she's not accountable for it. Someone else has to pay, someone else who's not afraid to hurt other people just like he hurt her.
"I said no."
I loved her journey and I loved the ending. This is a book everybody should read. It gives you a precise perspective on a situation that, if you've been lucky enough, you've never and will never experience. You need to read this book because we're in 2015 and there are still people who don't understand what rape is and why people would get upset when getting raped. Since the world is full of ignorant and stupid people we need books like this one and people who are willing to understand and internalize its message, we are the only ones who can fight ignorance and bullies in a constructive way.
Emotional and Mysterious!
I read this book in high school, and really loved it. It kept me reading the whole time, and I found it really interesting how for so much of the book the reader was left in the dark on so much. The more we learned about the lead character the more we could understand just why she acted how she did. It was emotional and amazing and really made me want to keep reading the whole way through. A great book for young girls about doing what is right, being who they are, and finding true friends!
One of my favorites
This book is amazing and I love how it is actually about real situations in life, I think it is great to read when you get overwhelmed with supernatural books!
A eye opening book
This book is great for anyone who are coming to age and be prepared to have your eyes and feel connect.
Good and meaningful
I think that the author did a good job of showing Melinda’s feelings. Showing Melinda’s feelings helped give the book something to think about. I also think she made the book better by using different things to support what she was writing. I don’t think that the author could have done anything better.
I think that the author’s writing was powerful. It makes you think about things. It also makes you feel things when you read it. I felt bad for Melinda while I was reading the book, and I think that this helped the author show how hard it is if you don’t express your emotions.
I think that this was a really good book. I would recommend it to people who like realistic fiction with realistic problems. I think it would be better for older kids than younger kids because of some scary concepts and moments. Overall, I think that it was a good book and that people would benefit from reading it.
This story is just amazing. It is beautifully written and goes into so much depth. Its a story about finding your voice, even if what you have to say is terrifying.