Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

There are no two ways about it--Speak is a gritty and painfully real novel about a very serious subject. Melinda Sordino is an outcast. The kind of kid that all of the other Freshmen at Merryweather High go out of their way to avoid. After all, she is not dressed well, she barely talks and during the summer break she committed the ultimate sin--she broke up a party that she and her former friends were attending by calling the police. But almost from the outset, the reader is given a hint that there are compelling reasons behind Melinda's silence and that perhaps she is not been given a fair trial by those around her--from her dysfunctional parents, her former friends from middle school who are trying hard to reinvent themselves and to fit in and by the many teacher and school staff all of whom are suffering due to needless bureaucracy and a lack of direction. And some of them, like Mr Neck, are just arseholes. Then there is Heather, a fake and perky wannabe whose only goal, it seems, is to be a part of one of the important groups at school. But until she can do that, she'll hang around with her only friend, Melinda. (Who she eventually ditches.)

Melinda's one salvation comes in the form of her Art class and a teacher who truly cares about his subject and his students. Over the course of the year, she works on her project and slowly becomes more and more able to cope with the terrible event that occurred at the party and, finally finds her voice at the exact moment that it matters.

This one is a dark but compelling read that most definitely is not for the faint of heart. There is a stark, brutal reality about this one that, sadly, many readers will be able to identify with. Speak was first published in 1999 and unsurprisingly, remains in print to this day. It has also been the subject of an independent film made in 2004 and more recently has been turned into a graphic novel.

Highly recommended.


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