Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

In 1999, Laurie Halse Anderson was recognized for the publication of her book, Speak. Since then her book has received an abundance of awards for its plot line and incredible language. The story itself is gloomy and hard to read; but, at the same time, it forces readers to want more.

The book begins at Merry-Weather High when a young girl named Melinda enters her freshman year after summer break. When everyone is guided into the school’s auditorium she is faced with a difficult decision, where to sit. After the summer, Melinda has found herself rejected by all of her old friends. She is left depressed and constantly bullied by her peers which makes her start slipping academically. She eventually becomes mute, which gains the attention of her principal and counselor. In time, her peers find out that she was sexually assaulted at a party.

Starting on the first page, readers are introduced to the main character, Melinda. Melinda is a shy girl who has yet to find where she belongs. It’s hard for her to socialize and she is always depressed. Another character who has been introduced at the beginning of the book is Heather from Ohio. Heather is a new girl with no friends, so she sits with Melinda for the first few weeks of school. After about two weeks, Heather ditches Melinda because she is always miserable and she thinks she is strange. This makes Heather seem ruthless and a not so worthy friend. The best part of the book was when Melinda was ditched by her friend Heather. Even though this is a very somber part of the book it’s intense and makes you want to keep reading. Heather confronts Melinda about not wanting to be friends as she says, “‘This is really awkward...but I think it’s time for us both to admit that we...just...are...very...different’ ‘You mean we’re not friends anymore’ “Look, you can’t eat lunch with me anymore. I’m sorry’” (Anderson 105-107). This quote is an example of Melinda losing a friend. Heather is telling Melinda she no longer considers her a friend because they’re very different people, she also states that Melinda can no longer sit with her at lunch. This quote resonates with me because, while I have never been formally rejected by a friend, I still have lost many friends. Not for things that I have done, but rather because we no longer share the same interests. This also reminds me of the book, The List, which is about a list that is circulated around a school stating who the ugliest and prettiest girls are within each grade level. Which usually leaves the so-called “ugliest girls” rejected by their peers, just like Melinda was.

If you like devastating, yet true, personal stories that entice you to want to read more, then Speak is an essential read. This book will make you keep reading until you find out the real reason why Melinda has been mute for so long.


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