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Review: Speak

June 23, 2009


Melinda had always been a normal kid – a pretty good student with plenty of friends.  During the summer between middle school and high school, she attended a party and something so horrific happened, she called the police during the party.  Since she never revealed the reason for calling, she was ostracized when everyone discovered that she was the one who made the call.

As she entered her freshman year of high school, Melinda found herself an outcast.  Heather, a new girl befriended her at first, but dumped her when she realized that their friendship was hurting her chances or being accepted by the popular kids.  Melinda’s parents became concerned when her grades suffered, but they were also very busy with work, so their attempts at helping her fell short.  Melinda discovered that no one listened to her when she spoke, so she became a selective mute.   She thought:

It is easier not to say anything.  Shut your trap, button your lip, can it.  All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie.  Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.

Before the year was over, Melinda decided that she couldn’t let a former friend suffer the same way she had and by trying to help her, she began to take steps to take control of her life.

I bought Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson on Buy Indie Day and stacked it with some other books.  It languished there until I read Molly’s review and knew I had to read it next.    This book follows Melinda’s life through one school year.  It is hard for me to express how I feel about this book – to say I “loved” it seems so cliched, but I don’t know what else to say about a book that is so powerfully written that it stirred memories of what it felt like to be in high school.  I don’t think adolescents are selfish by nature – I just think they’re all so busy trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world that they don’t notice when someone else needs help.  I think Anderson did a superb job of capturing the voice of a teen-ager, so the book felt very real to me, even though I knew it was a work of fiction.

There is a reason Speak has won so many awards and is being taught in middle schools and high schools.   This is an important work of fiction that I think the parent of every teen-ager should read.  I marked so many passages in this book that I can’t possibly share them all, but I want to close with this one:

Sometimes I think high school is one long hazing activity:  if you are tough enough to survive this, they’ll let you become an adult.  I hope it’s worth it.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2009 6:21 am

    I just bought this book tonight!

  2. June 23, 2009 7:06 am

    Great review Kathy! I just read this book and loved it! Now I want to read Chains by the same author.

  3. June 23, 2009 7:08 am

    Great review.. I remember reading this book when I was still in High School. I couldn’t really remember what it was about but when I read the book description I remembered, it was one of my favorites in school.

  4. June 23, 2009 7:16 am

    I mooched this one recently so I’m excited to read it. Your teasers made me even more excited.

  5. June 23, 2009 7:17 am

    Terrific review– you wrote so eloquently about a book that obviously meant a great deal to you. I have to read it!!!

  6. June 23, 2009 7:17 am

    Yes, this does sounds like an excellent choice for teens and their parents. It’s a difficult time for both, as I recall. Very good recommendation.

  7. June 23, 2009 7:23 am

    Excellent quotes you picked out!

  8. June 23, 2009 8:29 am

    What a great review! Really makes you want to go out and get a copy!

  9. June 23, 2009 8:34 am

    Great review! I have to move this book up on my TBR list.

  10. June 23, 2009 9:34 am

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. I’ve got it in my TBR pile as well and hope to read it in the coming months.

  11. Carol permalink
    June 23, 2009 10:15 am

    Sounds like one to definitely read before my daughter hits her teens.

  12. June 23, 2009 10:29 am

    I recently read this myself and loved it. Great review.

  13. June 23, 2009 11:02 am

    This sound fascinating! I’m adding it to the list!

  14. stacybuckeye permalink
    June 23, 2009 11:09 am

    Okay, you’ve convinced me!

  15. June 23, 2009 11:55 am

    Would a pre-teen boy take an interest in this do you think? I am always looking for books for my son who will be 11 next month and is on the mature side.

  16. June 23, 2009 12:05 pm

    this sounds like another great book for YA readers!

  17. thekoolaidmom permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:21 pm

    I don’t know how old this book is, but I vaguely remember the plot line in a movie from when I was a teen. I suppose it’s not a new evil, though. I’ll be adding this book to my wishlist, it sounds like a good one to read with my tween and teen girls.


  18. June 23, 2009 12:49 pm

    Excellent quote choice! I agree that it stirred memories of high school. She did an excellent job representing the life of adolescents.

  19. June 23, 2009 1:06 pm

    wow, sounds incredible 🙂

  20. June 23, 2009 1:31 pm

    This sounds like quite a powerful book. I didn’t have the best high school experience myself so this one might be kind of tough for me. Thanks for the review Kathy.

  21. June 23, 2009 1:38 pm

    For some reason this book really didn’t work for me. I read Wintergirls, though, and I liked it. It could have been a timing thing. I read it a couple years ago now. I am glad I tried her again, though.

  22. June 23, 2009 2:03 pm

    Definitely adding this to my to-read list.

  23. June 23, 2009 2:24 pm

    I just keep hearing such good things about this. I’ve got to check it out.

  24. June 23, 2009 2:30 pm

    I hate to admit it, but I’m slightly intimidated by Laurie Halse Anderson. You make me want to go ahead and bite the bullet and give her a try. Great review!

  25. June 23, 2009 3:34 pm

    Wow, that last quote you included seems so fitting nowadays. High school seemed much simpler and fun when I was there, as opposed to what kids deal with today. I’m really going to have to read this book soon.

  26. June 23, 2009 3:35 pm

    I definitely want to read this one. I love this type of book and enjoy recommending it to my teacher friends. It is also a good book to keep for my girls to read when they reach their teenage years.

  27. June 23, 2009 4:43 pm

    I read this back when I was a teen and it was one of my favourite books at the time. It definitely deserves all the awards and praise that it gets.

    ~ Popin

  28. June 23, 2009 4:49 pm

    I haven’t read anything by this author, but have seen her name on so many of the blogs that I read and whose opinions I respect.

    High school is tough, and it seems to be getting tougher each year – expectation of students, staff, parents and self are increasing.

    Great review, Kathy.

  29. June 23, 2009 5:22 pm

    Awesome review! I can’t wait to read this one. I still think about Wintergirls, I bet Speak stays with you a long time.

  30. June 23, 2009 5:54 pm

    I didn’t really like this book, but I thought it was quite powerful, and it has stuck with me over the past few years.

  31. June 23, 2009 9:31 pm

    One of my favorite YA books! I’m so glad you enjoyed and appreciated it too. 🙂

  32. June 24, 2009 12:01 am

    I have this book, too. I desperately need to read it, especially since it’s one of Dewey’s reads. I haven’t read anything for that challenge yet. Wonderful review, Kathy!

  33. June 24, 2009 12:46 am

    I’ve read so much about Speak. I really want to read this book. Glad to know you liked it too.

  34. June 24, 2009 10:40 am

    This should be discussed in H.S. That quote is so true and priceless. When I hear about what goes on today in H.S. I shudder a little bit. In general, we were never that bad, although I did have one friend who was just awful. Still is 20 years later.
    Brilliant review B!

  35. June 24, 2009 11:40 am

    Add me to the “I loved it” list.

  36. June 24, 2009 12:43 pm

    So glad to hear that you Speak and that you too loved it. This book is truly beautiful and one of the best YA books ever written. I’ve given this book to many family members that are teens and I had to fight to keep it on my library shelves in my middle school. Every student that reads this book has something to share with me about it.

  37. June 24, 2009 7:01 pm

    I don’t think I was blogging, yet, when I read Speak. It’s one of those books that really sticks with you, though. I agree — it’s an important book and I’m glad it’s used in schools.

  38. June 24, 2009 8:25 pm

    I’ve got this one on my pile… I really need to move it up to the top, huh?

  39. June 25, 2009 12:53 am

    I think this is one of those books that shows the power of blogs highlighting back list books. Because although it’s the ten year anniversary for the book, I’ve seen a ton of people reading it. I loved it. Have you seen the movie? My husband and I both enjoyed it.

  40. June 25, 2009 9:22 am

    I definitely want to read this one. I wish I had known about it when I was working as a school psychologist in the middle and high schools.

  41. June 25, 2009 1:27 pm

    My best friend just read this, and she’s been pushing for me to read it as well. Her tastes don’t always mirror mine, so I was debating, but after reading your review, I think I’ll give in and pick it up.

  42. June 29, 2009 12:26 am

    Great review. I must read this soon…

  43. June 29, 2009 9:53 am

    Great review! I have this one on my shelf, I hope to get to it at some point!

  44. July 7, 2009 1:29 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and I should just get off my duff and read it. 🙂


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