Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA, Coming of Age, Contemporary
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: October 22, 1999
"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.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
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This was the first book I've been assigned to read for school that I've actually enjoyed in a long, long time. In fact, the last time I genuinely enjoyed a book for school, I was in seventh grade reading The Outsiders. This book, like that one, is one I'm completely in love with. It was so incredibly emotional and the journey the main character, Melinda took . . . it just blew me away.
This book made me feel a lot of things but I think what I felt most often was anger. I was just so angry for Melinda. Her peers, her teachers, her parents, IT: all of it made me so freaking angry. I just wanted someone to ask "why?". No one ever asked Melinda why she was feeling this way, why she had changed so much. Hell, no one even asked "what's wrong?". The closest we got was "what's wrong with you?" and, trust me, it wasn't asked out of concern or kindness. While we didn't know what exactly had happened to Melina for most of the story, I had a horrible feeling what it was and it just . . . ARGH! I'm so angry about it. But still, even though I was so angry while reading, I was amazed at how the author provoked me to feel this way. Her words are just bursting with emotion.
I also really enjoyed the way this book was written in. There were no chapters. Instead, time was marked by marking periods, when Melinda gets her report cards for school. I loved this. It made me feel so much more involved in the story, like I was in it with Melinda. It also made it so much harder to put down. I had to force myself not to read too far ahead so I wouldn't ruin discussions about it in class.
I'm so happy I finally picked this book up. The emotional impact it's had on me . . . it's a book that will last. One that I will inevitably come back to over and over again. If, like me, you've been avoiding this book all these years . . . stop. This is a book you need to experience.
“Art without emotion its like chocolate cake without sugar. It makes you gag.”