I’m pleased to welcome my friend Denise as a guest blogger today! Denise left the corporate world to return to school for an advanced degree, and is now working in the alternative program at a local high school. She is the mother of two school-age children, and tells me “presently I’m addicted to YA lit. I think it’s fast, easy and gives me insights into the world of teens.” Read on for her thoughts on Speak – it’s prompted me to add the book to my wish list!
Back-of-the-book blurb: Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even 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.
Denise’s review: Raw, gritty, emotional are just three words that describe Speak. It is a story that should be read not only by high school students and teachers but parents, school counselors and social workers. This book is definitive of young adolescent realistic fiction with its multi-layered exploration of themes such as friendship, identity, sexuality, family issues and adolescent cruelty.
Melinda, the story protagonist, hides a dark secret. Rejected by her friends at her suburban, middle class high school, and targeted by her social studies teacher, “Mr. Neck,” as a problem student; Melinda loses her identity, self- confidence and her voice. She is unable to “speak” about her trauma. As her secret is painfully revealed, she begins to regain her inner strength, her sense of self and to ultimately find the ability to stand up to those who caused her such great pain.
This book is a painful reminder of the cruel world in which adolescents live and well worth reading. Teachers would find this book a perfect bridge to canon literature with books such as The Crucible or The Scarlet Letter. With its similar themes, Speak is a contemporary “slice of life” or “slice of experience” young adult novel that teens crave.
What I like about this book: Overcoming tragedy is an ongoing theme in literature. Teen readers who enjoy reading realistic fiction will love reading about Melinda. Life isn’t always a fairytale yet Melinda gives us hope that we can overcome tragedy. Laurie Halse Anderson is truly one of the finest young adult writers, sensitive to their world.
The tenth anniversary edition of the book includes Anderson’s poem “Listen”, created from the lines and words from the thousands of letters she received. Reading her poem is both chilling and heart wrenching. As the mother of a preteen, I am at times frightened for her while thankful that authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson are willing to confront teen issues in such a personal manner. This is a must-read for mothers and their daughters – a great book to enable a discussion about the dangers of date rape.
About the author: Information about Laurie Halse Anderson and her books (Young Adult and historical fiction) can be found at her website.