Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
In this contemporary YA, you meet Melinda, a girl in high school whose dark secrets have destroyed both her reputation and her life, making her an outcast. But the closer you get to the truth, the more you realize all the things she’s sacrificed to protect herself.
Publisher’s Description: The first ten lies they tell you in high school.
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.”
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
Melinda is both fierce and feeble, plus her thoughts are right up my sarcastic alley. Often she is dark and miserable and you can tell she just wants to scream. Other times she is soft and vulnerable, which is when she opens up and explains why she’s elected to stay silent.
A couple months before the story takes place, Melinda and her friends attend a junior/high school party in which Miranda becomes intoxicated and is raped by one of her older classmates. After her ordeal, she calls the cops and becomes the pariah of the school because they’re busted.
Her old friends have left her behind in the dust afterward and she’s alone, except for a girl who acts like her friend but really isn’t.
She moves through school in a daze, failing most classes and refusing to interact with the majority of teachers and schoolmates. The only class she’s really into is art – and her projects have to revolve around trees. She does like her art teacher, but he, too, has his own issues.
But anyway, little by little she comes out of her shell, revealing to her former friend what happened to her that night and even confronting IT as well. Eventually, she’s reading to speak.
This is a wonderful novel I flew through. The writing is great, Miranda’s voice is spectacular and edgy, and I have the sad feelings that many girls who have been in similar situations would appreciate this book.
Recommended for fans of Courtney Summers, Ellen Hopkins, and Terry Trueman.