by Laurie Halse Anderson
Age Range: 12 – 18 years
Grade Level: 7 and up
Publisher: Square Fish
Rating: FIVE STARS
There are only a few books that I can say I read in one sitting…. And SPEAK is one of them.
I saw this book at Goodwill and recognized the cover, so of course for the 80 cents it was I couldn’t pass it up. I opened it that night thinking it would be a nice easy read between my normal series binge reads. I started reading this at 7pm, thinking I would read a few chapters and be able to easily fall asleep. Next thing, I know I’m flipping the last page (crying) and look up to realize it was already 11pm. Let me tell you I was wicked tired at work the next day, but boy was it worth it! Anderson get Melinda’s voice / feelings so perfectly that you just slip out of reality and find yourself back at high school, through Melinda’s eyes, for the next 4 hours without coming up for air.
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.