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Topic 2: Realism, Romance, and Censorship

Paula's Young Adult Literature Website

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Anderson, Laurie Halse. 1999. SPEAK. New York: Puffin Books. ISBN: 014131088X.


SPEAK is an unforgettably moving novel about a young girl’s freshman year in high school as a social outcast.  Using first person narration and a dark sense of humor, Melinda tells the readers about her day to day existence both at home and school.  Anderson grabs the reader’s attention from the first page as she captures the true essence of a teenager’s very real thoughts and feelings about school and life.   She is now a social misfit because she called the cops to break up an end of summer party.  Since the party she is withdrawn and carries with her a deep, dark secret that has rendered her voiceless.  She was raped by a popular senior, Andy Evans.  “His lips lock on mine and I can’t say anything.  He is so heavy.  There is a boulder on me.  I open my mouth to breathe, to scream, and his hand covers it.  In my head, my voice is as clear as a bell: ‘NO I DON’T WANT TO!’  But I can’t spit it out.”  Anderson has done a wonderful job of establishing the harsh realities of high school cliques and one’s desires to be accepted by her peers.  Teenagers will certainly be able to identify with Melinda in this aspect as they all are looking for social acceptance amongst their peers.   As the school year progresses and with the help of a rather eccentric art teacher, Melinda begins to come to grips with what happened to her and begins to find her voice.  This story, although tragic, concludes with a hopeful ending allowing young adults to maintain a sense of hope. 


Laurie Halse Anderson has written a very compelling and gripping tale that shares with its readers the harsh realities of rape, high school, and other struggles a young adult may experience.  The voice Anderson gives Melinda is very strong and allows the reader to experience the pain, frustration, and humiliation she goes through almost daily.  After reading SPEAK, one may gain a certain empathy for the local outcast and even think twice before taunting and humiliating him or her.


“In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager.  Publishers Weekly


“A story with acute insight, acid wit, and affecting prose.” Library Journal                      



Topic 2: Squashed

This website was created as an assignment for LS 5623 at Texas Woman's University.