Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


The first day of high school is tough on everyone. It’s especially hard for Melinda who has no friends and nobody who hears her. Her ex-best friend, Rachael, despises her because Melinda called the cops during a summer party. Now, she has been branded as the girl who called the police. Everyone avoids her, and she shuffles through her day without emotion. If only she could talk about what really happened at that party….

This novel makes you think long and hard. It’s one of those books that makes you stop and stare off into space and ponder what you would do if you were Melinda. The question what if runs through your mind constantly during the novel. What if this happened to me? What if she told them? What if they don’t understand?

The reader feels Melinda’s struggles on a deep level. She has lost the will to live and try in school and at home. She dimly listens to her only friend jabber on and on about trivial events. The one thing that keeps her going is art.

I love the writing style of this novel. Melinda’s voice doesn’t seem to fake the funk she’s in. Anderson illustrates a character who has become a zombie. Melinda has not a care in the world, and it isn’t for lack of trying. She just cannot shake the depression she slipped into. I enjoyed her sarcastic comments and obvious efforts to push herself back into her old life.

The only thing I wasn’t sure about was Rachael, her ex-best friend. The cruelty she shows toward Melinda seems a bit unrealistic. How can two best friends be torn apart from one stupid party? Rachael could have been angry for a couple days or a week or so, but it was just one party. Melinda didn’t deserve Rachael mouthing “I hate you” at her. Then again, teenagers are pretty dramatic, and kids are mean, so maybe it could happen.

Otherwise, I liked the chapter set up and the style. The theme throughout the story is relevant in any time period. The horrible thing that happened to Melinda at the party continues to be a problem in society. The novel puts the reader in the shoes of a rape victim. Very realistic and inspiring. We watch Melinda slowly climb out of her depression and find her old self again. She’ll never quite be the same, but at least she can move past the event and get closure.

I have no personal connections with Melinda’s story, but Anderson does a fabulous job relating to adolescents with similar tragedies as well as explaining Melinda’s feelings to those who haven’t had these terrible experiences. Speak is a real eye-opener. It allows readers to walk in someone else’s shoes and see that for some, it is close to impossible to actually speak about the event. It not something you say in passing to your friend, or even try to explain to your mom. Anderson’s writing helps readers understand everything isn’t as easy as it seems.

3.5 Stars