Speak: By Laurie Halse Anderson (Book Review)


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.  

Speak sticks with you.  There are books that you read, enjoy, then place back on your bookshelf to collect dust.  You don’t think about these books again.  You forget the characters, the world, and the beautiful prose.  You forget the emotions you felt while reading the book.  You forget the novel’s message.  It becomes simply another book you gaze at indifferently, having enjoyed being along on its ride, but not really gaining anything from the journey. Speak is not this type of book. You will not forget it. Speak is honest.  Authentic.  Real.  Speak is powerful and sad, yet triumphant.  I read the book two weeks ago and I am still thinking about it.

Speak follows Melinda Sordino, a troubled freshman in high school.  She is haunted by her inner demons which leave her a prisoner trapped in her mind.  When reading the novel, it is obvious that Melinda attains serious problems, but it is not until the middle of the book when you discover what she has endured.  Although Melinda is in a difficult position, this novel is not one big depressing blob.  But rather, Anderson crafts Melinda’s character so she attains a sarcastic and sassy voice.  Although there are moments that you cry for Melinda, there are moments that you laugh because of her wit, and are proud of her when she finally speaks.  Also, throughout the novel, it is wonderful to observe Melinda get stronger.  By the end of the novel she is not a frail little damsel in distress who needs to be saved, but rather, she can save herself because she has started to mend herself back together.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing in this novel is superb.  Speak is broken down into short chapters and short paragraphs which make the book seem to fly by.  Also, by organizing the novel in this way, Anderson prevents the audience from being overloaded with emotional content.  Each section has powerful yet sad emotional moments, but since these moments are spread out throughout the chapters it doesn’t feel like any information is dumped on you.

When going into Speak, I knew it discussed heavy issues.  Laurie Halse Anderson is what I would call a quintessential issue writer, meaning that in almost every YA book she writes she writes about problems haunting adolescents.  Although I am not going to say exactly what issue Speak deals with because I don’t want to spoil anyone, Anderson handled and dealt with this issue with honesty and respect.  I personally don’t think I would have responded the same way as Melinda did, but her story was incredibly believable and real.  Melinda’s story is applicable to thousands and thousands of kids and teenagers, so I can only hope that it helps those affected to speak.  Because they need to be heard.  And we need to listen.

Due to this book’s increased popularity, I would be very surprised if you have not read it already, but if you haven’t you must read it.  This is mandatory reading in my opinion.  This novel can teach us so much about people like Melinda and how we can help them.  It teaches us to not make assumptions about anyone because we don’t know what they are suffering from. Or if you are like Melinda, maybe it will help you find your voice, and attain justice.  You deserve it.



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