Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Reviewed by Brandon Wood

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Brandon Wood – 5th p. – 9/5/13

From Goodreads.com:

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. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

Imagine being afraid to tell what really happened; afraid of the person who made it happen. This is how Melinda Sordino feels in Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak. As an incoming freshman, Melinda makes a mistake that completely changes the course of her first year of high school. The book talks about the importance of speaking up and letting the right people know what is going on. Although the novel sends a strong message, I wasn’t crazy about it. The main problems for me were the grammar and mechanics of the book, the slow and somewhat boring climax, and the overall depressing storyline of Speak.

The rules of grammar and mechanics were not obeyed in this book. Even though the grammar mistakes were purposeful in the tone of Speak, it sometimes made the book confusing and difficult to read. With that being said, in the scene where Melinda is sexually assaulted, the use of repetition does make sense and helps the reader understand what is happening without the author actually stating it. Also, in some sentences, the word “and” is repeated many times. I think this shows the nervousness in Melinda when she remembers the bad that has happened. Overall, even though the improper grammar plays well with the tone, I personally didn’t enjoy it.

The next thing that troubled me about Speak was the slow and somewhat boring climax. The whole book seems like the diary of Melinda’s freshman year of high school. In my opinion, diaries and journals are boring. This may be the reason why I thought Speak was boring. Whenever Melinda came in contact with Andy, I thought something was going to happen. Except for the last interaction, nothing did. The only parts that were interesting to me were the explanation of the end-of-summer party and the scene where Andy attacked Melinda in the closet. Other than that, it was basically an explanation of how miserable Melinda’s life was, which brings me to the next element of the story that I didn’t like.

The overall depressing storyline of Speak was the third thing that I didn’t like about the book. It seemed to me as though Melinda was never happy. Everything good and genuine was depressing and stupid to her. I am an overall cheerful person, so having to see things through a depressed teen’s eyes made the book difficult to read. Some parts, like when Melinda cut herself with a paperclip, made me feel very uncomfortable. I couldn’t wrap my head around the reason why she didn’t speak. I pulled through, though, and I was happy to see that Melinda did also.

Even though Speak contained an important message about speaking up, I think it could’ve been presented in a more entertaining and interesting way. There has been talk about a sequel, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I would read it. I didn’t like Melinda’s character enough to be left wanting more. If you are a cheerful person like me, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. It will bring you down, or at least it did me. If the grammar, climax, and storyline had been different in the novel, I think I would have enjoyed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson much more.


2 responses

  1. Hey Brandon
    Nice work on this book review, I have never been able to get into journal style reading myself. It is good that you are not afraid to state what type of reading you don’t enjoy. A lot of people tend to only say they love books or hate them, after reading both your responses I can tell you will be honest in your book reviews. I like that. One thing I did notice was in your response there were no quotes from the book. This is important in a book review because it shows the reader that you are a good source for what is in the book, and it shows that you actually read the book. Another thing that I thought was interesting was how you brought up the grammar of the book. I think sometimes authors can go overboard with trying to sound authentic and it comes off cheesy, so that is a good point. If you can throw in some well-placed quotes as examples of the points you are trying to make that would help the book review. If you have any questions message me back.

    1. Thank you, Aaron, for the feedback on my book review. It is nice to have someone comment good things about my work, such as my presence of strong opinions. I’m a very opinionated person, so to hear that about my work made me smile. I agree with you on the lack of quotes. This has been an issue in my book reviews and it has caused a deduction in points, since this element is discussed in the rubric. I’m not exactly sure how to add these quotes. It’s not that I haven’t read the books, because I have. I just don’t know where to add these quotes and how to do so without making the essay too much like a summary. I would appreciate any advice you would be willing to give me to help with this skill.


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