Review by Payton Anderson
Speak, a realistic fiction novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, tells the story of Melinda – a 13 year old girl going into her freshman year of highschool. Filled with friends, two parents, good grades, her life is sustainably joyful. She is simply another girl riding through summer on her bike, awaiting the arrival of another year in school. With two weeks left, one of her many friends suggests they attend a highschool party on the night of a sweet day. Considering how they will be joining the crowd of teens in just a few weeks, it appears to be a decent idea. However, when they arrive, Melinda finds herself caught up in the sea of alcohol scattered throughout each room, drowning in the thrill of not being a kid. After several drinks, she experiences a horrible incident that she becomes too afraid to discuss. The situation silences her as she calls the police to try and explain. But due to her silence, she is unable to explain. Yet the cops appear at the party and bust the assumed issue – high schoolers involved with drugs and alcohol. Melinda, still shocked by what took place, experiences severe repercussions of her actions as her “friends” and basically everyone at her new school refers to her as “the girl who ruined the party”. With a newly placed target on her, she faces extreme bullying and harassment from the students. Her grades also suffer and her parents never seem to stop fighting. Everything is just going so wrong all at once, and Melinda is overwhelmed. Speak is written in the form of several diary entries from Melinda’s perspective. Being a shorter read, this book may not give as much detail as I’d like, but it still manages to deliver the full story and its purpose. This book gives you a look into what Melinda thinks throughout her experience – amplifying her story and what she wants to say. But will she speak up and explain why she did what she did? Will she find the courage and the voice to say something now that she has been silenced? Will she ever learn to speak? Will you get to hear what she can’t say?
Speak is based on an experience Anderson had as a teen. She, much like Melinda, was silenced by what happened to her. Her new memoir, Shout, focuses on her trauma and the life she knew while growing up. It addresses her personal experience, as well as how she has used her knowledge and writing skills to help others in similar positions. So if you enjoyed Speak, Shout will give you a more indepth look on how the story emerged.
Laurie Halse Anderson takes on this story with open arms as she has Melinda represent what many struggle with. Being very relatable for high schoolers in general, this book has thrived for several years and will continue its route of relevance. If you enjoy heavy set storylines and current topics, Speak gives you just that. Woman and girls especially have this book as a must read as it’s plot is directed more toward them. Nonetheless, no matter who you are or what you’ve experienced, I assure you that this book will make you laugh and cry as Melinda fights to find her voice while riding the roller coaster that is high school.