By Laurie Halse Anderson
(Speak, Paperback, 9780142407325, April 2006, 224pp.)
The Short of It:
The Rest of It:
Melinda’s first day of high school is even more horrid than she imagined. The friends that she had during the summer, are no longer speaking to her. Her decision to call the police during a summer party has made her the most unpopular person on the planet and no one wants anything to do with her. Once well liked and popular, Melinda finds herself navigating the first year of high school alone. No one knows her true reason for calling the police that night and if they did, would they even care?
Without going into too much detail, Melinda’s situation is not uncommon (unfortunately), but a situation that has the power to destroy and devastate on many levels. Broken and alone, her only option is to become silent. Turning inward, she attempts to make herself invisible and takes to hiding in a janitorial closet at school. As her grades slip, her parents fail her miserably in their poor attempt to understand what she is going through. With no immediate help, she begins to express herself artistically in the only class that she enjoys.
Speak is intensely powerful, yet tastefully done. I’m surprised that so many schools have added it to their banned book lists because it’s a book with an important message and one that deserves to be read. Anderson does a stellar job of conveying Melinda’s pain. There were many times where I found myself thinking about my old high school days, and even though that part of my life took place years ago, not much has changed. Kids can be jerks and “friends” come and go like the tides. The only way to deal with it is to know that you have value and that your voice matters no matter what others think.
Speak has been out for quite some time, but it’s a classic in that it deals with issues that all teens deal with. If you have a teen in your home, I urge you to read it first, share it with them, and then have a discussion about it.
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