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
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withdrawn and carries with her a deep, dark secret that has rendered her voiceless.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
“A story with acute insight, acid wit,
and affecting prose.” Library Journal