Monday 27 September 2010

Review: Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

"I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons.  I didn't go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone ... I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude.  And I don't have anyone to sit with."

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she's an outcast.  Her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't know glare at her.  If only she could explain ... but she just can't find the words.

Visit Laurie Halse Anderson's website for more information

Melinda is just starting high school and her reputation is already in tatters.  At a summer party she called the police getting her classmates in trouble for underage drinking but no one knows why she made the call and Melinda just can't find the words to tell them.  With none of her old friends talking to her Melinda has nobody to turn to, feeling increasingly desperate and isolated she finds it harder and harder to talk to anyone about what she has been through.  Will she be able to find her voice & speak out about what happened to her?

Speak is one of those books that sucks you in until you're completely absorbed in the story and I didn't want to put it down.  Melinda is so easy to relate to and it really feels like you're inside her head experiencing life through her eyes.  Although the book deals with a difficult subject matter it does so without the need for graphic descriptions of the event that traumatised Melinda so badly.  It gives just enough information for you to experience her horror without having to read the full details.  Thankfully I've never experienced a sexual assault but as a long term sufferer of depression I could easily understand Melinda's feelings and she reminded me of myself at her age.

Melinda is isolated from her peers, most of whom won't even talk to her and she doesn't have much in the way of family support.  You would expect her parents to have picked up that something was wrong from the way her behaviour changed but they didn't really spend time together and perhaps were trying to bury their heads in the sand.  The only person who seems to be there for Melinda is her art teacher and it is him that gives her a way to express herself through her art.  It just goes to show how much of a difference a good teacher can make to a teenager's life. 

Although the book covers difficult topics it also includes humor and I loved Melinda's descriptions of the various school groups.  I think anyone would be able to find something in the story that reminds them of their own school experience - whether you were one of the popular crowd, one of the geeks or anything in between.  I think this really is a must read book for young adults and adults alike.  It is a perfect opportunity to open a discussion between parents and teens about some of the bad things that can happen in this world.  I don't think it helps to keep teens sheltered from the hardships of life and giving them the means to talk about these issues can only be a good thing.  For those who have unfortunately suffered abuse or sexual assault this may show them that they can come out of the other side and that they aren't alone.

Overall Speak is an incredibly moving read and one I'm very glad I came across.  I would recommend this story to both adults and teens and think it should be available in all schools and libraries.  I'm looking forward to discovering more of Laurie Halse Anderson's work.

Source: I purchased this book after reading about the controversy surrounding Dr Wesley Scroggins' article comparing this book to pornography.  I'm actually glad that he wrote this article as it gave me the opportunity to read a book I'd not heard of before the controversy - I find it quite ironic that in his attempt to get a book banned he encouraged even more people to read it!  I'm currently hosting an international giveaway to win a copy of Speak.  The giveaway closes on 30th September 2010 & you can click here to enter.

Other reviews of this book:
The Lost Entwife
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


  1. Great review! I really should read this one. It sounds really good and interesting! It also sounds very heavy, something to read when I have the time.

  2. Hi Nina, although this book covers difficult topics I didn't find it heavy or hard to read. I'd definitley recommend you give it a try :o)

  3. You are right when you say that in trying to ban this book it has only brought it to more peoples attention. Like you I hadn't heard of this book before but now I'm dying to read it. Great review :)

  4. Hi Chrissie, I'm glad I'm not the only one who hadn't heard of this book before the controversy LOL. I just think it's so funny that he has made so many of us go out & buy a copy of the book LOL. It's definitely one that is worth reading though :o)

  5. I thought it was neat how truly immersed in Melinda's mind you are but at the same time you still are not able to see the whole story at once. This is a powerful novel, and readers can enjoy both Melinda's wry humor and her heart-wrenching pain. The metaphors and symbolism add to the richness, but the primary attraction is Melinda herself - you become one with her and I found that I cared deeply for her and ached for her sadness. Although most girls will not be able to relate to Melinda directly, her tale is one that needs to be told. She is a survivor and a heroine and a voice that every young girl should learn from.

  6. You have a nice review! Here's mine: Have a nice day!



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