Note: I wrote this review about six years ago, before the #MeToo movement, and am just publishing it now.
This is one of those books I wish we didn’t need.
But since we do, I am glad that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Speak.
Melinda Sordino is entering high school as an outcast. Everyone hates her because she called the cops at a party over the summer. No one will speak to her. And she will speak to no one.
The story of what happened at the party, and why she called the police, comes out slowly, slowly, slowly.
Most of the book, Melinda is caught up in her agony. In her pain. She can’t manage school. She can’t stand the pain. She can’t speak to her teachers. Or to her parents.
She has two retreats: art class and an old janitor’s closet.
As the year progresses, she gradually admits to herself what happened at the party. She gradually works through her inability to speak.
Spoiler Alert: For parents whose children are reading this in school – Melinda was raped at the party, which is why she called the cops. But in the chaos she couldn’t speak up for herself. That lead to her not speaking at all. She also experiments with self-harm.
The good news is that she does learn to speak for herself. She does stand up for herself, and suddenly becomes popular. On the last day of school.
Anderson deals with very difficult topics in a sensitive manner, slowly revealing information bits at a time.
Speak is definitely a book to be read with a group – either with a parent, a trusted adult, or in a classroom, where kids can process it slowly and not rush through it.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.