Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Picture from Penguin.com
Penguin Group
ISBN 9780142407325 
224 pages 
Apr 2006  
14 - AND UP years
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully 
constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

Description:  Speak is told from the point of view (POV) of a girl starting high school: Melinda Sordino.  Using first person POV means the narrator has to provide all the details of description.  In all the reading I've done, I've found it amazing at how many authors can accomplish this seamlessly.  Laurie Halse Anderson is one such author.  Not only do I see what Melinda sees, but I can feel it, taste it, hear it and I don't feel overwhelmed with extra stuff. I particularly love the way Melinda uses art to talk in context of life and learning.  It was a great way to really showcase all that was going on inside her head.  And though this book was first published in 1999, in no way did it feel dated.  (Score: 10/10)

Narrative:  Laurie Halse Anderson uses a form of narrative I admire.  The paragraphs are short and spaced apart.  This setup alone makes me subconsciously feel more in tune with the personality of the story and the character.  But the words themselves come straight from the head of Melinda.  It's authentic with a voice that stayed with me long after I finished the book. And miraculously, she covers an entire school year without ever letting the story lag or move too fast. (Score: 10/10)  

Dialogue:  I'm not quite sure how she did this, but the author used a rather unique form of dialogue that I fell in love with.  Instead of the typical layout, much of the dialogue was in a scripted format.  This too added to the feeling in the book.  I imagine it was difficult to write this way because the author loses the ability to communicate body language.  Her words had to speak for themselves. And the did, in a big way.  Not all the dialogue was done this way, some was buried in with narrative, but it kept it interesting.  (Score; 10/10)

Characterization:  Speak's characters were all engaging and multi-dimensional.  I admire the way Laurie Halse Anderson was able to make Melinda troubled without being pathetic or whiny.  She was real and in pain, but at the same time strong.  That's really hard to do!  I looked for stereotypes, just because I always do, and really found none.  There are generalizations, yes, but I think that's so true in any book-but they didn't feel forced or faked.  I also really liked the way characters came in and out of Melinda's life-this made it feel more real to me.   (Score: 10/10)

Resolution:  My favorite aspect of realistic fiction is the resolution.  Often, the climax is so subtle that I barely notice it's coming...or maybe I don't want to admit it.  But Speak was like that.  It held conflicts and triumphs throughout while at the same time leading the reader down a road of growth and understanding.  Melinda's growth is sudden, which makes this fictional story so very believable.  The ending was unique and interesting.  I was sad for it to end, but at least I know Laurie Halse Anderson has written more books to enjoy.  (Score: 10/10)

This book is an important read.  Not only is it well written, but the main topic-the unspoken teen- is very relevant to today's society.  Too often, teens (and even adults) feel they can't really say what they need to.  Our world places way too many expectations and restrictions on what is appropriate to talk about.  But some things shouldn't be kept silent.  How many girls are shamed into silence every day?  Who makes that okay?  I also loved how Melinda was "punished" for bad grades.  I mean, hello?? That's a red flag of distress and, again, too often, it's covered up with blame and excuses. Don't get me wrong, I understand why this happens.  People don't know how to deal with such problems.  So, where do we begin learning?  With books such as Speak.  The topic is on the table, now discuss. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Speak is a compelling story about a girl named melinda who went to a summer party and something tragic occurs (duh duh duh). She called the cops out of fear and now everyone hates her. This book tells a story about what so many kids are going though. It was amazing how Melinda was able to fight through it all. The best part of the book was her being able to face her fear and stand up to her rapist but it wasn't good how it took her so long.