Posted by: Ms. Matson | August 6, 2009


Laurie Halse Anderson
New York:  Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999
Genre: Young adult realistic fiction
Interest level: High school
AR Level: 4.5
Winner of the National Book Award

You know, I’m not so sure I like Laurie Halse Anderson’s stories.  I’ve read three of them now.  Oh, they are incredibly compelling works.  But so disturbing, so real and raw.  And they don’t offer hope until the very end, and even then it’s just a tiny spark.

From the front flap:

“From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops—a major infraction in high-school society—so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute.  But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either—there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about.  Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation.  Once that happens, she can’t be silent—she must speak the truth.

In this powerful novel, an utterly believable, bitterly ironic heroine speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while learning that, although it’s hard to speak up for yourself, keeping your mouth shut is worse.”

The summary cannot convey the depth of emotion, the seriousness of this book.  Truly, there were parts where I had to put the book down and weep.  It’s a hard book to read, and it will make you want to vomit.  But I think it is one that needed to be written.  The reason behind Melinda’s silence is something that needs to be discussed.  There were things beyond that which made me very angry, particularly the parents.  How could they be so caught up in their own world and not see the suffering of their daughter?  They didn’t even feign interest in her life but only berated her when she failed to meet their expectations.

As with her other books, in Speak Anderson does an excellent job of catching the voice of her character.  I do not think this story could be told so well if the narrator was anyone other than Melinda.  Speak is a great book as far as the writing and story-telling go.  And I liked it as much as one can say that about such a book.  It’s just that Anderson creates such a disturbingly realistic high school setting.

Speak and The Hunger Games in the same week – I need to read something light after this.


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