Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
By: Grace Bannister – 3rd period – Honors 9 English
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 alone. Imagine carrying a horrible secret that you couldn’t bring yourself to share – not even with yourself. This is the reality of Melinda Sordino, the main character in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. This story chronicles the freshman year of Sordino as she struggles to come to terms with the horrifying events of last summer, all the while being mindlessly hated by her peers for busting an end-of-summer party by calling the police. Anderson beautifully captures the emotions of a young teen girl trying to make it through high school as an outcast whilst struggling to cope with every woman’s nightmare – rape. This novel brought me to feel real compassion for Melinda. I most enjoyed how Anderson captured the emotion of Melinda, how she forced readers to confront a difficult situation, and how she used very casual language to help her readers fall into the shoes of the character.
In Speak, I found the emotion to be raw and gripping. The story kept me in an emotional rollercoaster as I followed Melinda’s heart wrenching journey to acceptance. It was almost as if I could feel the glares of my peers, the crushing weight of reality, and the horrible pain that accompanied acceptance of the truth. My heart ached for Melinda and I felt awful when reflecting upon the cruel hand she was dealt. The injustice of it all screamed at me. No one, and I am adamant when I say NO ONE, should have to feel the grisly violation of rape. The fact that she was shunned by her peers for an act committed in drunken fear and confusion was appalling. The cruelty of people always leaves me stunned, especially when her former best friend admitted her hate. In this story, I could feel Melinda’s pain as she struggled to choke out the painful words of her story. The emotion in this novel was astonishingly real and very easy to find within myself as I read.
Despite my love of the emotional aspect of this selection, my favorite part of Speak was simply Melinda’s situation. The concept was somewhat frightening for me because, like most people, I had always looked at rape as something that happened to other people, not me. I imagine that most people found it intimidating to read about a girl that could be anyone – a friend, a family member, the girl next door, or even you – because it brought a much needed reality check. Rape, although it be a gruesome fact, can happen to anyone. The worst part though, in my opinion, is that judging from Melinda’s silence, it may have already happened to someone you or I know. The concept was controversial and gripping. The subject matter was something that seemed to be plucked from the deepest fears of millions. I believe that this is what really made this book a winner.
The language and tone of this novel was yet another thing that I thoroughly enjoyed. The language was understandable and not too difficult for less avid readers, but it was also very effective at conveying the story in a detailed manner. I find that many authors have difficulty in this area and Anderson seems to have a rare talent for it. Even the unusual format for the chapters was something that excited me in its uniqueness. I enjoyed how the timeline was aided by revealing the seasons and grading periods. It was definitely a new style and was pleasant for readers.
All in all, the novel was a delightful read and I completely understand the praise of Anderson’s work. The ending was a fabulous conclusion to Melinda’s story. I recommend this story to readers who want a realistic, emotional story that will keep them captivated. I feel like this novel will challenge readers to think about the awful reality that some people must endure. Melinda is a character for whom you can feel true appreciation. Speak was just what I was looking for with its raw emotion, intense situation, and understandable language.