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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak (edition 2011)

by Laurie Halse Anderson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,260695354 (4.11)1 / 373
A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.
Authors:Laurie Halse Anderson
Info:Square Fish (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. 111
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  6. 10
    Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (wsquared)
  7. 10
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both Speak and Wallflower are books about young teens struggling to find acceptance in high school while trying to deal with trauma - both without being preachy or cloying.
  8. 21
    Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (Runa)
  9. 00
    Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: Books about two different girls who are raped in similar situations, but have different outcomes due to different support systems.
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    flanisntjustdessert: similar plot lines and leads
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    Whitney Cousins: Amelia by Jean Thesman (anime_miz)
    anime_miz: Same concept of how a female rebounds from a bad sexual attack.

(see all 21 recommendations)


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» See also 373 mentions

English (685)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (693)
Showing 1-5 of 685 (next | show all)
It is beyond time I read this. Learning that this book has been banned in some places--even accused of being "pornographic"--was the kick in the pants I needed to finally get to it.

[[I made no attempt to avoid spoilers.]]

Speak is not an easy read. Main character Melinda spends her freshman year of high school in a deep, palpable fog of depression. All we know for almost half the book is that everyone hates her for calling the cops in the middle of big, end-of-school party at the start of the summer. Her best friend has actively abandoned her and started trying to transform herself now that she's in high school. Melinda's only friend is a new girl who's unaware of what happened and who's desperate to be friends with anyone who might help her find a clique. Melinda's parents are dysfunctional and constantly at each others' throats--all Melinda wants most of the time is to avoid them. Her academic drive has evaporated; instead of getting good grades, she finds an unused janitor's closet and turns it into a safe haven where she retreats when life--including classes--feels too overwhelming to bear. Unexpected athletic talents might be a way to get back on line...if only she had the grades to allow her to participate. The only thing left that makes Melinda feel any interest is art class, where an eccentric but sincere teacher pushes her to see the world in new ways.

Halfway through, we finally learn why Melinda called the police that night: she was raped by an upperclassman and didn't know what else to do. In her isolation, she has no one to talk to. Worse, her former best friend seems to be cozying up to Melinda's rapist, and Melinda's attempts to warn her before prom are heartbreakingly dismissed. Somehow, though, through her art and her tentative interactions with a couple other loner classmates who she connects with, Melinda confronts and works her way through her pain and grief, finally standing up for herself in small ways that build to an all-too-rare comeuppance for her attacker.

This is so not an easy read. Here's the kind of catty, mean-spirited high school that people love to hate. Almost no one is willing to give Melinda the benefit of the doubt--weren't there any students who weren't at the party?--and her parents are more frustrated by her listlessness and falling grades than concerned about what might be wrong with their child. Speak is a painfully realistic depiction of depression--and, based on this edition's opening poem, composed entirely of words emailed to Anderson over the years from people who have experienced Melinda's pain, of rape and sexual assault.

But it is so, so worth reading. The content is critically important, especially for the boys that Anderson has encountered who could not understand why Melinda is so upset, because they have been raised to believe that any sex is good sex. Anyone who has had the privilege of never experiencing major depression might understand, just a little, what people with depression feel. But it's not all pain: there are moments of wry and sarcastic humor, particularly when it comes to high school life: the teachers struggling to engage uninterested kids, the ones who are horrendous examples of casual racism and xenophobia, the deliberately over-the-top political correctness and below-the-belt cruelty flung around by kids testing the boundaries of what they can get away with. And there are moments of beauty, particularly as Melinda's art evolves--this would be a good book to use to teach symbolism (can't help but wonder how intentional that is, given one student's complaint that symbolism in The Scarlet Letter has absolutely no relevance to their life). Anderson's prose is beautiful, too.

Speak was a National Book Award finalist in 1999--along with Walter Dean Meyers' Monster--losing to Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. I've done a little work with Holt's book, so I know that people say fabulous things about it and that it's used in classrooms. But I'd never heard of it until my job brought it to my attention, unlike Speak and Monster, which feel like part of my elementary and middle school experience, even if I didn't read them at the time, because of how many people were engaging with and talking about them. I do think it's a bit much to call Speak "The book that changed everything," as the tagline on my edition proclaims--if only it had--but I wonder whether reading this book in class might

But forget reading it in class--according to the American Library Association, Speak was the 4th most frequently challenged book in 2020, "because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity." The book has also been called "child pornography" and "soft pornography" because of the description of the rape scene. But, as almost every article about the book's banning has pointed out, the people saying these things clearly haven't read the book.

And that's a shame. Because Speak seems like a book that many teenagers could relate to, even if they haven't dealt with sexual assault. Every child has moments of loneliness, even social isolation; mental illness is on the rise among middle- and high schoolers; and, of course, many teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be as a person. Like If I Was Your Girl, I suspect that Speak is a book that probably ends up with an audience of mostly girls when, in fact, there are valuable things to learn and relatable moments to connect with for almost everyone growing up. And as difficult as that may be to read about, it's beautifully delivered, a real work of young adult literature. ( )
  books-n-pickles | May 1, 2022 |
Excellent book! ( )
  Dairyqueen84 | Mar 15, 2022 |
Check out my review...http://shannonsbookbag.blogspot.com/2011/10/speak-anderson.html ( )
  ShanLand | Feb 28, 2022 |
From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she's an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops - a major infraction in high-school society - so her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute.

But it's not so comfortable in her head, either - there's something banging around in there that she doesn't want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won't go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can't be silent - she must speak the truth. ( )
  Gmomaj | Feb 2, 2022 |
Too complex a book for me to really review. I liked the ending. However, the style, though perfect for the story, left me gasping for a longer sentence. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 685 (next | show all)
The plot is gripping and the characters are powerfully drawn, but it is its raw and unvarnished look at the dynamics of the high school experience that makes this a novel that will be hard for readers to forget.
added by khuggard | editKirkus Reviews
In her YA fiction debut, Anderson perfectly captures the harsh conformity of high-school cliques and one teen's struggle to find acceptance from her peers. Melinda's sarcastic wit, honesty, and courage make her a memorable character whose ultimate triumph will inspire and empower readers.
added by khuggard | editBooklist, Debbie Carton
Anderson expresses the emotions and the struggles of teenagers perfectly. Melinda's pain is palpable, and readers will totally empathize with her. This is a compelling book, with sharp, crisp writing that draws readers in, engulfing them in the story.
added by khuggard | editSchool Library Journal, Dina Sherman
But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
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).
added by khuggard | editAmazon.com, Jennifer Hubert

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurie Halse Andersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Abos, ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Correa, María MercedesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forsström, Ann MargretTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heesen, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kantele, Arja(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kollmann, BirgittÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morgenstern, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Awards and honors
To Sandy Bernstein, who helped me find my voice, and to my husband Greg, who listens
First words
It is my first morning of high school.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English


A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.

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Book description
This book describes the struggle of a teenage girl to find her voice. You watch the character fall into depression, go mute, drop tremendously in school, and isolate herself from society. As if feeling unsafe in the world isn't enough, Melinda doesn't even feel safe in her own mind. And why? Maybe because all of her once best friends refuse to talk to her for busting an end of the summer party. Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that her parents couldn't take less of an interest in her, and refuse to communicate as they get sucked into their workaholic lives. Deep down, Melinda Sordino knows the reason that her life has turned into a living hell. The only way to escape this whirlwind of torture is to speak, but that's not as easy as it may seem.
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