Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review #95: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin
1999 National Book Award Finalist
Price/Pages: $8.99/198

My Thoughts:

Back in May when I returned from New York and BEA, I changed the genres that I would be reviewing on this blog. Up until that point I had been reviewing everything I was reading and that included many different genres. I felt my blog was a bit all over the place and my reading was getting a little busy with review requests. My TBR pile of books I was dying to read was growing and sadly being ignored. So I decided to stick to focusing on my three favorite genres. I've mentioned them before; they are literary fiction, mystery/thrillers and memoirs.

Though I do love Young Adult novels, I decided there were plenty of YA blogs out there who were doing that genre some serious justice.
I would continue reading but I would not review on this blog.

And, of course, this is my blog and I can change my mind at any time, right?


Well, just for today I am making an exception in posting a review for Speak, the marvelous novel by Laurie Halse Anderson.

I should have read this years ago and admittedly I picked it up because of the controversy surrounding it during Banned Books Week. Here is an article at the Huffington Post explaining it all. Like any other banned book, this ticks me off. Especially with the recent rash of teen suicides happening, we need books like this that speak the truth of what is happening or could happen to our kids.

Here's the synopsis from the back cover:

"Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth."

I will give away a spoiler. That "something" is a rape.

The thing that I liked about this book was how it played out. You don't really find out what happened to Melinda until the end. It flows during the course of her first year in high school and it's written in short paragraphs. You see high school through her eyes and her observations are dead on. I haven't been in high school for (cough) some time now but boy does Anderson capture the mind of a teenage girl beautifully. The insecurity, the emotion, the apathy, the sweetness, the hope. It was extraordinary to read such a vivid, real portrait of the the teenage mind.

Here are just a few lines that really blew me away and my reactions after reading them.

"Gym should be illegal. It is humiliating" (pg. 18)
Uh, yeah...I was the skinny kid with the heart condition no one ever picked for their team. .

"I have been dropped like a hot Pop Tart on a cold kitchen floor." (pg.21)
A teenage girl can cut another girl down in an instant.

"They call me Me-no-linda for the rest of the period. This is how terrorists get started, this kind of harmless fun." (pg. 42)
It's like kicking puppies. If you are a bully as a child, chances are you will grow into a bullying adult. Not always but I do agree with bad behavior starts somewhere and it doesn't always develop into good.

"You never think about the mall being closed. It's always supposed to be there, like milk in the refrigerator or God. " (pg.98)
This just made me laugh because as a teen I had no awareness for how the real world worked. If I wanted to go some where, wasn't it just supposed to be opened and ready for me?

I could post 100s of lines and my book got so full they kept falling out so I am not including a bunch. You will just have to read it and discover its power.

I believe Anderson has written a must read for all teenagers, girls especially. Yes, it has to with rape. Do young girls get raped by teenage boys? yes. Yes, it's about bullying and peer pressure. Does that happen? Um, yes. Yes, it's about dysfunctional families. Are those out there? Yep!

Rating: 6 stars/ 6 stars
The voice of this book is so vivid and raw and honest and sincere that I felt so much while reading it. It spoke to me in the way Are you there God, it's me Margaret? (though that was a tad lighter). I applaud Laurie Halse Anderson for writing such a real account of a teenager.
This should not be banned (nor should any book but that's another post).
It's so easy for you to go inward when you are a teen. Sometimes it's a book, or music, or a movie that pulls teens out of their shell. We need books like this to Speak out about the real life of our teens.
Highly recommended.

Author Website:

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow. This is the best review I've read of this so far. It sounds really good. I loved the quotes you added too.

Staci said...

I'm glad that you changed your mind and reviewed this one because it's such an important book. Excellent review!

Sheila Deeth said...

Sounds a great recommendation. I shall have to read this book. Thanks

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Now this is a book that I've wanted to read for a while. SOunds like you enjoyed it like most of the other reviewers.

Gina said...

LOL, yes, it is totally your perogative to change your mind on your site at any point. ^_^ Glad to see a review for this one since it was receiving so much press during banned books week. Sounds like one of those YA novels that deals with a heavier topic, which is not that unusual nowadays...but you know, it is something that might help those that are in situations like this, ya know? It gives them a friendly shoulder to lean on so to speak, even if it is a fictional account. Great job on the review and here here on the sentiments you shared! Happy reading....

Musical quote of the day....
"Don't tell me not to live just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade"
-- Don't Rain on My Parade ala Funny Girl


Christine said...

I've read countless stellar reviews for this book and it has been on my list to loot from the library for so long. I will get to it one of these days. Thanks for the reminder.

Marce said...

Michelle this one has been on my list for a long time and then all the hype from Ban week made me realise I had to read it.

What a great review, you have made me excited for it again.

And I agree there are a ton of YA blogs out there but only some YOU will enjoy, i'm glad you reviewed this one.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

Your review of this book is probably the best I've read. I applaud you for reading it and reviewing it. This book came out when I was still working with abused children - many who had been raped...I gave this book out to as many teenagers as I could afford. My daughters and I read it and talked about it and then passed around copies to their friends. Your right, it's a topic that should be discussed openly and honestly - rape, bullying and peer pressure. You rock Michelle!
And any moms with daughters or even sons should read this book too! So very powerful!