Thursday, September 23, 2010

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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: Andy Evans. He's a senior at Melinda's high school, and Melinda hasn't been able to speak clearly since he raped her at the senior party last August.

Laurie Hasle Anderson is a uniquely talented author and with every word within the pages of Speak, I was drawn deeper into the emotional downward spiral that Melinda travels during her first year of high school. The story that Melinda tells is heart wrenching and at times I found myself crying right along side her, and when she couldn't cry I let the tears fall for her. My emotions were completely shredded as through Melinda's anguished voice, she tells the story of what happened to her at that party--and afraid to tell anyone, she withdraws into herself, and away from the world. Melinda has lost her voice, there is nothing physically wrong with her, but almost every authority figure makes her go mute and they misunderstand her reasons for not talking thinking she simply has a behavioral problem. Melinda's grades begin to suffer as she ignores her homework and begins skipping class to avoid the angry glares of the other teens who had attended the end of summer party--but her parents refuse to see that there is a terrible secret troubling their daughter. Melinda feels there is no one she can turn to and even though her art teacher seems to be understanding, she is still too afraid to speak up for herself. It's not until she is forced into a confrontation with Andy Evans that she finds her voice and is finally able to speak about what happened that night in August. Speak is one of those truly incredible books that should be read and discussed by everyone, it's as beautiful as it is haunting.

Censorship and books should never be in the same sentence; Speak has become a challenged book: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography.

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