Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Finished 7-25-12, rating 3.5/5, Young Adult, pub. 1999
Unabridged audio 5 hours. Read by Mandy Siegfried.
Melinda is starting her freshman year as an outcast after calling the cops at an end-of-summer party. Lots of kids got in trouble and blamed Melinda. Melinda didn’t mean to spoil everyone’s fun, she meant to report a crime, one that she has kept secret and has continued to haunt her. Her friends no longer talk to her and the only one who goes out of her way is the new student Heather, who doesn’t know any better. Melinda spends her year in a janitor’s closet, skipping school, and rarely talking.
The book addresses the aftermath of rape and it is a poignant story of how a young girl can lose herself when there is no one to lean on. It is an important topic and one handled thoughtfully. I can see why so many people like it. High school is tough enough and having to start it with such a black cloud hanging over you is unimaginable.
There were a few things that kept me from loving this one, but it’s the way high school was depicted that bothered me the most. Or maybe Melanie’s silence, which at first was easy to understand, but became less so as the story continued. I had a hard time believing that not one person would talk to her in her high school. An outcast she may have been, but schools are full of them and it seems like she may have found some solace with at least one of them. I totally sympathized with her depression, she was so, so young, my heart broke for her. I hope that when this happens in real life there is at least one person who is willing to get to the bottom of what the problem is. She didn’t have one person who cared enough.
Melanie’s voice, told in first person, was perfectly captured by narrator Mandy Siegried. She captured the haunting and the hurt and depression just right.
I think I’m in the minority on not loving this one. I don’t read a lot of YA, so maybe I’m being too harsh. I did like it and think it is a perfect book to start a discussion with teens.
I checked this audio out of the library.
24 thoughts on “Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – audio”
Thanks for the honesty. I would like to think there are other outcasts that would speak with her, but today, you just never know. What a sad situation in this one!
It was very sad. In a school that bog I’m sure there would have been more kids that stepped up, even if only to be different!
Stacy, I think it is because we are not YA fans. I enjoyed it but expected so much more. Overall I could see it being good for teens. I feel like I would have gave it 3 1/2 too.
I think that’s true, Marce. Not my genre of choice, but I do like to check out the ones that come so highly recommended.
I can’t help but think that Melanie’s Depression played a large part in her view of those around her. As someone who suffers from Depression, I know all too well how difficult it is to reach out to people (and for help), and how easily it is to assume they don’t or wouldn’t care if I tried. Plus there’s the whole shame thing. So, when I read the book, I took Melanie’s observations and feelings with a grain of salt, knowing she was seeing the world through the eyes of someone with Depression. Just my take on it. 🙂
It definitely reads like a YA novel, and I am not sure I would have thought so highly about it as I did had I not been able to relate to it on such a personal level. My situation wasn’t the same as hers, but many of the issues I struggled with were. It’s hard for me to be objective about it as a result.
I do think the book has a good message, one worth sharing.
I totally agree with you about Melanie’s depression coloring everything. I was hoping for her to be more proactive in getting out of it and was also so frustrated that no one close to her stepped up.
I’m sorry that depression hit you in this way. I had a short bout from after Gage was born through his scary hospital stay at 4 months old. After that my mind was totally consumed with getting Gage healthy and grown and this really scared the depression away. I had plenty of people tell me I could get extra help to get through and while I think that drugs are a good thing for some, I never did go that route. My life may have been a little better that first year if I had!
I think I liked this more than you did. I agree with you that it’s a great book to read and discuss with teens.
It is a perfect book to read with your kid or a class. I think so many of them could relate.
I’ve read quite a few positive reviews but the sad thing is, I believe it was targeted for book banning in schools and it seems like the exact type of book that should be read in schools.
It is a perfect book for discussion. Banners are silly.
I listened to this one on audio too, I liked it but didn’t love it. For me, Wintergirls was better written.
I’ll have to give that one a try.
I enjoyed this one on how it handled a topic that needs more discussion. I think it played a bit too much into stereotypes of teens and absentee parents but overall I thought it was well-written. The movie is really great too. It’s the most perfect part for Kristen Stewart ever 😉
I’m so out of the loop. It was a movie with Kristen Stewart?! It does seem like the part was written for her 🙂
I rated this a 3/5, so you are not alone. I think I was reading too many YA books at the time, and they all started to sound the same.
It was good, but not sure I’ll remember it.
I thought this book would be perfect for teens and parents. A starting place for discussion perhaps. I think I’ll put it on my to-be-listened-to audio list. Jenners is right that SPEAK is on the banning list. Who would be afraid of this book? Because it is about rape? Do people think that sexual assault is too scary a topic to share with teens? Seriously? Or maybe it’s the teen party atmosphere where the rape occurs. In any case, I think it belongs on the shelf of school libraries or any library for that matter. In case you couldn’t tell, I have strong viewpoints about book banning. 🙂
I’ll repeat what I said to Jenners, banners are silly. This does belong in a school library and it should be discussed openly. Think of how many girls would benefit.
The first person narrative is fluid and natural. The paragraphs are short. To a large extent, this feels like a journal written by the narrator Melinda. To pull the reader closer to the action, the book is written in the present tense, so we’re encountering everything directly alongside Melinda. Melinda is struggling with her voice and with trying to figure out how to communicate her troubles and with whom. As the reader, we are the only one she truly communicates with. But even with us, she holds back. She keeps us at arms length so we don’t penetrate her wall and expose her pain and vulnerability. The voice is uniquely teenage and is a good portrayal of the thoughts of a teenage girl ostracized by her friends as she begins her Freshman year.Two other stylistic things I want to mention. First, I really liked the way the author divided the book up into the four “Marking Periods” of the school year. It was unique and provided for nice markers to break things up. Including Melinda’s ‘grades’ was an intriguing touch that added cool depth. Another stylistic element I enjoyed was that found in the dialogue of the book. Most of the time, Melinda doesn’t speak even in lengthy chunks of dialogue. Rather than add tags like “I said nothing” or “I stared silently” or other trite annotations, the author instead lays the dialogue out in a screenplay type format with each speaker’s name followed by their line. When Melinda remains silent, the direction simply says “Me: ” with no trailing dialogue, indicating silence with stage presence.
I don’t think you’re being too harsh, even though i loved this one. I think this book should be read by every girl and her mother and then discussed!!!
I absolutely agree!
I really liked this one. I did sort of understand why Melinda had no one to talk to. I’ve seen it happen that when a popular kid falls from grace, no one else wants to talk to them.
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