By Laurie Halse Anderson
Published By: Puffin
Publication Date: October 22, 1999
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. (From Goodreads)
Speak is one of those books I've been meaning to read for what feels like forever. Everyone I know who had previously read it kept telling me what a powerful story it was, I just never picked it up. When I found it at my local used book store, I grabbed it and finally I can say I know what everyone is talking about.
The story takes place in Syracuse, NY and spans the course of a school year as the main character,14 year-old Melinda tries to recover from an event that turned her world on its side. We don't find out what happened until later in the book and I know that is one of the things that kept me turning the pages. I needed to know what had happened to hurt this poor girl and change her so drastically in the course of a summer.
The story is told from Melinda's perspective and watching her try to survive what her life has become is agonizing. Melinda's narrative will sink its teeth into your heart and it won't let go until the very end. She is sarcastic and hilarious, despite everything. I found myself laughing and fighting back tears at the same time while reading. You cannot help but wordlessly cheer her on as you follow her journey.
Melinda is the focal point of the book, the impetus driving the plot forward and we don't get too in depth with most of the other characters in the book. But I love Mr. Freeman, her art teacher. He is the most supportive and intuitive adult in her life and for that alone you have to like him. He doesn't yell or threaten; he simply provides her with an outlet and a desire to excel at something again. I really think this helps her come back to herself in a way.
This book is important for so many reasons. It deals with issues that are more commonplace than people realize. So many teens and youngsters are dealing with the inability to find their voice after being victimized in some way, shape or form and we need to educate and support them. I know if I have children I will be sitting them down someday to discuss this book. Kudos to Laurie Halse Anderson for helping so many young men and women see that they are not alone.
About Laurie Halse Anderson:Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.
Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes.