Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Puffin (1998)
Age: Young Adult
Species: Human
Rating: 3.5/5
Interest: Banned Reads Project/ 200 in 2011/Laurie Halse Anderson

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.
I feel like an ass for rating Speak so lowly, but let me explain. I did not rate Speak lowly for the material it contains. I marked it down because I didn't derive much enjoyment from the book. For a book with a message, it was great and filled it's purpose. However, I can't see myself reading this book over and over for pleasure. Melinda was understandably distraught, moody and depressed which wouldn't have bothered me too much if it hadn't lasted almost the entire book. After a while I just got into a foul mood because she would not find happiness in anything. Not to mention everyone except for maybe 3 people ended up being complete jerks to her. I sort of it admit it showed Melina's strength, that she didn't self mutilate or commit suicide after her life took a nosedive for the worse.

The book's pacing is probably what bothered me the most. After completing the novel, I can see that almost all events happened in the order and time they were supposed to. However, when reading Speak, it was hard to get into the novel because it feels so slow and stunted. The rape isn't even mentioned till near the end of the novel. For a very long time it's reading about a disturbed girl, but we don't know what happened to her. Which for me is frustrating. If I'm being fair though, it is pretty well advertised online and by word of mouth that this is "the book about teen rape."

My favorite part of the book was the end. I wanted to cheer Melinda on when she started fighting. I was like "YES! You finally get it! You have power over your life!" It's a good feeling to see a ray of sunlight after wading through all that crap she went through. I feel the only thing that really shocked me in the book was Melinda's age. I understand that the point of the book is to be a shocking wake-up call about rape for young women, but Melinda was a 9th grader. Maybe 19 year old me doesn't understand how "mature" that age can be, but it seems like she's practically a kid which makes me feel weird. It's always a surreal experience when people (fictional or not) younger than me seem to have experienced and grown so much more than I ever will.

A special side note to parents, grandparents, friends of parents, guardians and young adults: The rape scene is not vulgar or explicit. It was handled very well. I had to take a minute to understand what was even happening in the moment. Younger children might not understand that it is a rape scene and it might need to be explained. Anderson only employs the very lightest and shortest of metaphors to describe the scene. It doesn't even take up an entire page.

Overall, I didn't enjoy Speak as much as I wanted to, but it was still a very moving story people can learn from. I'm sad it took me so long to read, but I'm glad I'm finally able to cross it off of my list of books to read. I want to take the opportunity to say that I will fight for this book. I will not sit quietly and let it be banned to the furthest reaches of the universe. It has to be in schools and it has to be read. End of story. This is definitely a book everyone should read just once in their lifetime.

A side note on the film adaptation: I have not seen the entire film adaptation. I saw a part of the ending once on Lifetime. Some things had been changed, which was a little disappointing, but it looked like a good movie to watch. Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, plays Melinda Sordino. (She's actually really good in the flick, if you haven't seen her in anything but Twilight.)

Other books by Laurie Halse Anderson:
1. Fever: 1793
2. Wintergirls
3. Twisted
5. Forge
6. Chains
and many others.

Teaser Line: "I know my head isn't screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them."

Happy Reading, 

1 comment:

  1. This book was deeply original and surprisingly charming. I would have preferred it to have more drama or action, but I understand that the silence is the whole point of the story. This is a great story about depression and the teenage soul and every teen should take the time to read it.


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