Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I just finished rereading Speak. It’s a pretty popular book. It was made into a movie.

Speak tells the story of Melinda starting out high school with no friends, very depressed actually. At first we don’t know why. Except that she called the cops at a party.

On the first day she meets Heather a socially out of touch andconstantly peppy girl. Like the opposite of Melinda and what she needs right now.

Heather drags her on her little adventures in trying to be popular, and is very superficial when Melinda is dealing with way more difficult challenges.

Her parents argue constantly and seem on the edge of getting a divorce. According to Melinda it’s been this way for years. They’re really frustrated with her for not getting good grades or seeming to care as she’d been doing so well in Jr. High.

By chance, she finds an old Janitor’s closet. Filthy and abandoned it’s the perfect place for her. She cleans it out brings some blankets and books and other things. She’s able to sleep there when she can’t at home. And think.

What’s in her head is scary. But she feels she knows no one will really care what she has to say or believe her.

In art she is given the assignment to work on one subject the whole year with different mediums. Hers is tree. At first she thinks it’s stupid and too easy. Then she gets frustrated that she can’t seem to get it right. The art teacher is very well much his own person and so gives everyone as.Doesn’t want to follow any rules basically. It seems like he’s the only person who really sees how much pain Melinda is in and offers to talk and is genuine about it.

But throughout the book the tree becomes a metaphor for Melinda’s emotional growth process. She seems interested in nature, and the only biology things she pays attention to have to do with planting.

It comes to light that she was raped by a popular boy at the end of summer party after getting drunk. She is wrestling with all this, made worse by her ex best friend going out with him.

She has to hash out a lot of this stuff in her own head, was it her fault? Being afraid to talk at all to anyone, keeps her trapped and no one knows what’s going on.

The school counselor makes things worse. Just focuses on grades and a behavior plan to get them up.

The art is the best way she was able to express her feelings. And planting, towards the end of the books she helps clean the yard and plant and it seems to help.

When confronted with her rapest she has the strength to use her voice to get out of the situation and to start to tell others.

It’s a very well written book. I wish Melinda had been able to go to art therapy instead of just art class. But the art was clearly therapeutic. Plus there’s a cynical perhaps rightfully so, part of Melinda that would not take to therapy I don’t think. Unless it was someone who understood why a person would stop speaking.

I know this is a very popular book so will be interested to hear your thoughts.

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