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Laurie Halse Anderson – Speak

January 10, 2011

161. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)

Length: 198 pages

Genre: Young Adult

Started / Finished: 28 December 2010

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? I don’t remember specifically, honestly.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 September 2008.

This slim book deals with
heavier topics than teens
should have to cope with.

Summary: Melinda is starting high school at a serious disadvantage: everyone in the school – including all of her former friends – already hates her for calling the cops on an end-of-summer party. But none of them have heard Melinda’s side of the story, and Melinda’s not talking… because in order to stays sane, she knows she needs to stay silent, or else the terrible secret she’s keeping inside since the night of the party will tear her apart.

Review: I am in an uncomfortable position with this book. It is clearly an Important book on a Serious Subject, and it equally clearly resonates strongly with a great number of people. So, I feel like kind of a jerk admitting this, but: it didn’t really do much for me. It was really well-written, very good at evoking Melinda’s pain while still retaining a dark sense of humor. It doesn’t shy away from the tough realities of high school, depression, or rape, and manages to present them in a way that’s appropriate for young teens without talking down to them or making light of their problems. I wasn’t being facetious when I called it an important book; it’s the sort of novel that should be recommended if not required reading for high school students everywhere.

But. I didn’t really connect with Melinda at all. We – thank goodness – don’t have much if anything in common. Her pain was vividly and realistically depicted, but it wasn’t something that I identified with. Her reactions would not have been my reactions, and I consequently had a hard time getting into her shoes. So, while this is objectively a good book, and definitely should be read, it’s not for everyone, and it wasn’t really something that spoke to me. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Even though it wasn’t my favorite, I can easily see why it won the awards that it has, and since it’s so fast, I think it’s worth reading for just about everyone.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: At Home with Books, Bart’s Bookshelf, The Bluestocking Society, Book Gazing, Bookalicious, Books on the Brain, GalleySmith, Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?, Maw Books Blog, A Novel Menagerie, She is Too Fond of Books, Things Mean a Lot, Trish’s Reading Nook
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: It is my first morning of high school.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 7:19 am

    I read this novel maybe three years ago and was blown away. (Enough for me to still remember my reaction). But, I think your reasons for not connecting with Melinda are valid.

    (Also, I saw the lifetime movie of Speak, and surprisingly, it was pretty decent. I usually shy away from their adaptations. The actress was the same girl who plays Bella in the Twilight series. She does a really great job remaining silent and using only facial cues.)

    • January 12, 2011 9:24 am

      Christina – I’ll have to check out the movie, although I might have a hard time seeing her as anybody but Bella.

  2. January 10, 2011 7:48 am

    I really liked Speak, but I connected quite a bit with Melinda, as she reminded me of a friend of mine (who, thankfully, has never gone through what Melinda did). Sorry this wasn’t better for you!

    • January 12, 2011 9:27 am

      Jenny – No worries; even though it didn’t blow me away I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m glad that books like this exist.

  3. January 10, 2011 9:12 am

    I just got this book to read and have heard a lot of mixed things like you write. Nevertheless, I will read it. Thanks for your honesty though, I really appreciate it.

  4. January 10, 2011 10:21 am

    I’m taking a class on young adult and children’s literature this semester, and this is one of the books we have to read—I think it’ll make for an interesting discussion on important topics in YA lit.

    • January 12, 2011 9:28 am

      Omni – Oh, I think this will make an excellent discussion starter! Let me know how it goes!

  5. January 10, 2011 5:09 pm

    My reaction to this book was similar to yours. Even though I didn’t connect with it, I understood why it is important book. I hope it has encouraged young women who have experienced a situation similar to Melinda’s to speak up.

  6. January 10, 2011 11:57 pm

    I felt much the same. It’s certainly an important book, and I’m glad it’s helped so many people, but I couldn’t really connect with it.

  7. January 11, 2011 8:28 pm

    You shouldn’t feel like a jerk – no book is for everyone.

    • January 12, 2011 9:32 am

      bermudaonion – I know that’s true, but when it’s a book about such a personal issue that so many people identify so strongly with, I don’t want my non-love of the book to come across as a dismissal of their experiences.

  8. January 14, 2011 7:36 am

    When I wrote up my review of this one I looked at it from a very personal side–though what happened to Melinda didn’t happen to me, I could relate to the way she reacted to it. I learned through the comments, though, that many people feel the same way you do–just didn’t relate to Melinda so appreciated the book but it didn’t “do” as much for them.
    On a side note–thanks for the link to Trish’s Reading Nook. The blog is kind of defunct now–no need to link to the newer blog, but just in case you didn’t know… ;)

    • January 17, 2011 9:32 am

      Trish – It’s interesting how the exact same book can mean such different things to different people!

  9. January 15, 2011 1:14 pm

    Interesting review. I think I’ve read only high praise of this book, so it’s refreshing – and reassuring – to read a balanced opinion like yours, recognizing the book’s merits while not it didn’t speak to you. I’m planning on reading it this year, I’m curious to see how I’ll feel about it!


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