Apr 27

Fiction Friday: Speak

There is this thing that happens to many adolescent girls. It often happens in middle school but sometimes waits till high school. Somehow a rumor gets started and you suddenly become a pariah. No one will be seen talking to you. Doesn’t matter if the rumor is grounded in reality. It only matters if people believe it because if they do you become alone in a sea of other adolescents whispering as they pass you by. It usually lasts about one to two weeks. Then it dies down and the silent treatment shifts to its newest victim.

What happens to Melinda Sordindo in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a little bit different.

Over the summer, Melinda calls the cops on an end-of -school-year party.  The book starts at the beginning of the next school year. Melinda is not only a pariah, she is the object of the whole school’s rage. Even those who weren’t at the party had a friend there. Everyone hates her. No one speaks to her.

Melinda doesn’t speak back either.

She says a few words here and there. Just enough to get by. Mostly Melinda just thinks, and it is though her sardonically witty thoughts that we learn about why Melinda called the cops on that party.

The reason isn’t a pretty one. In fact, nothing is pretty in this book. Melinda thoughts are a raw, unpolished mix of fury and fear. Almost like  slam-poety juxtaposed with teenage angst. While it isn’t pretty, while there is no sense of euphony this tale, it is necessary that her story get told. It is necessary that we feel, that we know how damaging “not speaking” is.

For everyone who could not “speak” this is an important read but I cannot recommend it without warning. While I think it is important that as many people read Speak as possible, there are some Trigger Warning themes present in the book. If you are easily triggered please proceed with caution. It is a strong and powerful book but similarly brutal at times.


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  1. 1

    I’m unclear on what a “Trigger Warning Theme” is. Could you clarify for me?

    1. 1.1

      I mean the book essentially comes with a need for a trigger warning because some themes may trigger PTSD symptoms. I chose not to specify so aa not to spoil the plot.

  2. 2
    Ashley W.

    I could not help but to look it up on other sites. I needed more detail on this one! 🙂 I plan to read it. I would like to see the movie as well. I saw what you meant by trigger warnings, and I’m sure it’ll trigger some in me. Went through a similar situation for two years. Thanks for the new book to adding to my reading list! 🙂

    1. 2.1

      I understand the need to know beforehand. It simply is a must read book though. I cannot stress enough how important it is because like Anna says, Anderson gets things right in Speak. She alternates the brutal with dark humor in such a way that some people will probably finish this book in one sitting. I myself had to stop and say some of Melinda’s thoughts aloud, let them roll of my tongue because I loved her syntax so much.

  3. 3

    This book had a lot of meaning to me. I was past my high school years but I could feel what Melinda felt. It was much like I felt and still sometimes do.

    So much you want to say. So much you want to express. You want people to understand, You want people to help. But you are afraid. What if they don’t understand? What if they don’t believe?

    You stay quiet. You lose yourself. Nothing seems real because you just don’t connect and its so very hard to find your way back.

    This book is amazing. It gets things right. No quick solution, no pat ending but it understands the pain the loneliness the isolation. It hurts to read though.

    I am glad you chose to mention Speak. It gets banned in many schools and it can be a healing tool. It should be available everywhere, its important.

    1. 3.1

      This is absolutely an important book. People need to know 1) it’s not just them or 2) what happens when we don’t speak.

      Btw, since you like this book so much you should try Winter Girls also by Laurie Halse Anderson. She researched anorexia heavily (the science and perspectives of anorexic people) before writing it. It has the same short brutal style (though slightly more amplified) and is written from the perspective of an adolescent anorexic girl. It is a very good read too.

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