Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak stunned me. The book takes you through one school year as seen and experienced by high school freshman, Melinda Sordino. Melinda enters high school as a shunned student—she broke up an end of summer party when she called the cops and everyone hates her, including her friends. She slips into a silent depression in order to deal with what happened on the night of the party, and no longer does she speak to anyone around her.
The book is about depression, and Anderson effectively conveys the painful loneliness and hopelessness of Melinda’s situtation. She does so through witty writing, but also writes her story using descriptions and viewpoints on high school life with which most people can identify. Not everything in Melinda’s thoughts swirl around depression, but rather silently pulse with a teenager’s attitude and outlook on the silliness and mortification that is sometimes high school. Early in the book Melinda thinks “Gym should be illegal. It is humiliating.” It it not a stretch to say that most P.E. uniforms and that alone is embarrassing, athletic or not.
Then there are Melinda’s thoughts on Español, “My Spanish teacher is going to try and get through the entire year without speaking English to us. This is both amusing and useful—makes it much easier to ignore her.” Exactly. I understand why language teachers adopt this strategy, but I also understand how it can have this effect on students.
Speak is considering a Young Adult book, but I think it is book for adults to read as well as teenagers. It might provide a parent or teacher with a new perspective, and maybe it will help a teen to realize that other people share their feelings and thoughts.
These are just moments I particularly loved from Speak:
The chapter title “Student Divided by Confusion Equals Algebra” is perfect.
"Ninth grade is a minor inconvenience to him. A zit-cream commercial before the Feature Film of Life.”
“Then Ms. Connors blows her whistle to stop and explain the retarded scoring system in tennis where the numbers don’t make sense and love doesn’t count for anything.” This is exactly how I feel about tennis.
There is also a movie, based on the book, starring Kristen Stewart (which I have not watched).
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