Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda is beginning her freshman year of high school. For some reason, that we as readers don't yet know, she is being ostracized by all her former friends. She is even alienated by the rest of the school. Even her first lunch period ends with food all down the front of her. Her only friend is a transfer student, Heather, who's incessantly positive attitude leaves a bitter taste in Melinda's mouth at times.

Why is she so bitter? Why is she so full of words, but can't find the strength to speak up? Her only solace comes in art class. Her teacher assigns each student one subject matter to work on for the entire year. She draws, scrapes, molds, paints: a tree. One day she stumbles into an old janitor's closet, and decides to make it into her own special place. A place where no one can hurt her, a place of freedom and safety.

Slowly we learn about IT. The incident. The reason for her silence, the reason for her shame and public humiliation. The thing she can't talk about to anyone, not even herself. She called the cops on a party at the end of the summer. Lots of kids got in trouble, even more were pissed off. She just ran away, not able to find her voice--to speak. There is a reason for her silence.

Melinda's inner world is so full, yet so desperately lonely. Through a series of choices and learning to stand up for herself, she is able to face the past. She doesn't stay silent forever. Everyone should read this book. If you have ever felt lonely, like you couldn't share the most important thing in your life with anyone, this book is for you. If you ever struggled with your parents, your friends, yourself, this book is for you. If you have ever found comfort in writing, in art, in creativity, this book is for you. Melinda's story shows us the importance of discovering who WE are inside.

"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," (Anderson pg. 51, 1999).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Who Am I Without Him? by Sharon Flake

Anderson, Laurie Halse. (1999). Speak. Farrar Strauss Giroux: New York, NY.

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