Book 27: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Page Count: 198
Genre: Young adult/literary fiction
Melinda begins high school as an outcast because she called the cops on a huge party over the summer. Everyone thinks she did it to break up the party and cause trouble, but Melinda knows the real reason, and it’s a reason she can barely even admit to herself. She spends her first year of high school struggling with the knowledge that her friends hate her for something that wasn’t her fault. Will she ever find the courage to speak up about it, though?
I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, and the premise really interested me. I like reading about misunderstood high school girls with no friends. That’s why I was so surprised that I didn’t like this book. I kept reading it because I heard so many great things about it and hoped that it would get better, but that never really happened. Maybe it’s just because I’ve always believed in getting great grades, regardless of what else is happening in your life, but I found Melinda really hard to relate to. I could understand being withdrawn and not wanting to talk at all – or, rather, not being able to – but I don’t understand failing classes and skipping school. There have been novels that made me like characters who do such things, but they have to be really well written in order for me to connect with a character so unlike myself. This wasn’t one of those.
There were, however, bits of humor spread throughout the book and observations that I could relate to. I liked her lists of lies that they tell you in high school, as well as the fact that they never made it to the present day in history classes, something I noticed myself when I was in high school. As a whole, though, I didn’t feel that the interesting parts were worth reading the rest of the book for. I just found myself not really caring about the characters.
This book deals with a rather sensitive subject, one that I feel is important for teenagers to talk about and understand. However, I don’t feel that this is the book to bring up such a subject. Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen covers the same subject matter – and, indeed, starts much the same way – but does so in a much more interesting way with characters that you can get to know and love. If you were looking for a book that dealt with rape, I would go for Just Listen over Speak one hundred percent.