By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication Date: April 20, 2006
I bought this book
Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute... Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. The triumphant ending, in which Melinda finds her voice, is cause for cheering (while many readers might also shed a tear or two). After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person--who may be screaming beneath the silence.
Why I picked it up: This has been the most talked about book for the past few days and while it was easy to take a stand against banning it, I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and see just what it's all about.
Why I couldn't put it down: I have never read a book that captures so painfully and so truthfully what it's like to be a teen aged outcast. Melinda was quite possibly the realest character I have ever lost (and found) myself in. Reading this book took me back to some of my own painful memories of junior high, memories that make me wanna cry for the girl I was and wish I had found my own voice sooner. I was never raped, but I suffered emotional abuse at the hands of my classmates. My family moved a lot when I was growing up and I found myself in a new school almost every year. Seventh grade: I was new, I wasn't cool, I wore a lot of badly patterned polyester, and I got good grades. These things didn't win my any popularity contests. I can remember sitting by myself at lunchtime and having kids come up and smash M&M's in my hair. I can remember hanging out after school with the girls I thought were my friends only to suddenly find myself alone save for the school bully and her followers. I got punched that day and walked home alone and shaking. I remember being excited like everyone else at the end of the school year about getting my yearbook signed only to find everyone wrote "to a weird girl."
Anderson captured perfectly what it feels like to be that girl. This book isn't just for survivors of sexual assault, it is for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast, like they didn't fit in, like they were alone. Melinda's thoughts and feelings could belong to any girl. And that's what made me so invested in this character. I was pulling for her the whole time, wanting her to find her voice and find herself...to realize that she may have been damaged, but she wasn't broken.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you haven't read it yet, read it soon. If you know a girl who might be feeling left out, give her a copy. I wish I would have had this back in 7th grade. I might not have felt so alone.
5 out of 5 stars
Wednesday, September 22, 2010