Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

continuing with national suicide prevention week, we continue with speak, a book so good i read it in four straight hours last night.  september on sarcasm&lemons will be dedicated to tough, real issues. and some other stuff to keep it light.  for more suicide prevention info, check out To Write Love on Her Arms

also, don't forget to enter the giveaways to win 13 reasons why by jay asher or extras by scott westerfeld.  

title:  Speak

author: Laurie Halse Anderson

pages: 208

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0141310886

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 9/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for: Anyone who has ever felt alone, rejected, lost, afraid, or wounded.

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...

the basics
I never had high school as bad as Melinda did, nor was I ever made to go through the pain and torture of rape as she did.  Even if you weren't either, there is so much to connect with in this book.  Melinda, in her cynical, terrified, darkly humorous internal monologue, speaks to the part of every person that has felt alone. Rejected.  Like an outsider.  Like a freak.  The voice is authentic, the plot quick-moving, and the characters richly portrayed and relatable.  Melinda herself manages to be every sad teen while also being her very own person.  I couldn't stop reading this book.  It brought me back to the darkest parts of my life, and showed me how to find the way out.

plot . 5/5
The plot moves quickly, through Melinda's entire freshman year.  It stops on the most important events, skimming past the slow points.  The speed means that we don't see every day for Melinda, but it's also a crucial part of her narrative.  Her life is a blur.  She's just trying to get through it.  Even with all the missing details, I never felt disconnected from the story.  The fact that the rape narrative is saved until near the end is another brilliant move.  Even to the reader, Melinda is silent.  It shows how total her transformation is at the end.

concept . 5/5
One in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Speak deals with the issue of rape in a way that is thoughtful and tasteful without dancing around the issue.  We have a culture of silence.  People don't talk about rape.  Schools censor books about it.  People are afraid to say the word.  Melinda's story shows how dangerous that silence can be.  You watch her fall deeper into the hole of silence, and are rewarded at the end when she finds her voice.  I could have cried.  It was beautiful.  

characters . 5/5
I'm in love with David Petraski.  He's one of the few characters who reaches out to Melinda, and he's no one special.  Just another geek like the rest of us.  Sweet, simple, kind.  Ivy is another favorite of mine.  Most of the characters hate Melinda in the beginning for what she did at the party.  However, we see them dealing with their own issues and dealing with what they see as Melinda's "betrayal" in different ways.  Every high school caricature is represented, but they don't feel like stereotypes.  They're real, endearing, terrible, and funny.

style . 5/5
It's so sarcastic in a way that's never overwhelming.  Melinda is clearly cynical about life, but she's also extremely funny.  She sees the silliness in everyday high school rituals.  In the pretenses people keep up.  In the ever-changing school mascot, a plot piece I thought was hysterical.  It's part parody of high school, but it feels so real.  Her voice is so authentically teenaged.  The descriptions are also very rich.  I felt like I was living in Melinda's head.

mechanics . 5/5
The grammar was sometimes a little awkward, but in a way that made it sound even more like a teenager wrote it.  It really worked.  The short, choppy sentences and unusual dialogue tags made Melinda's silence very visual.

take home message
A moving tale of love, redemption, and the power of speaking up.  

Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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