Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Image of the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson(Photo by Carla Rennick)

Summary (from goodreads.com): “Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her.

I never thought I would be able to call a book about such a serious topic “a joy to read,” but that’s what this was. Melinda’s snarky commentary on the farce that is the public high school experience moved me to laughter over and over again. Anderson writes her protagonist with such strength and personality that–even as it becomes increasingly clear that something awful has happened to her, and even though her relationship with her parents becomes more and more tense–I forgot to feel sorry for her. She teeters on the edge of a depression and isolation that so many people–teenagers and adults–find overwhelming, but she is not crippled by it. Anderson’s supporting characters are just as well-crafted and captivating. Melinda’s parents, teachers, friends, and even her enemies, surprise Melinda and the reader with their humanity, their imperfections, and their growth. Finally, I really appreciated the symbolism and imagery throughout the book, literary tools used incredibly effectively even while the author pokes fun at the English class tradition of force-feeding interpretation to skeptical freshmen. Overall, I recommend this book to both teens and adults, even those who–like myself–tend to shy away from depictions of the more painful realities of life.

Favorite line: “[Maya Angelou] must be a great writer if the school board is afraid of her.”

Rating: 5/5


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