Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
First Published: October 1999
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre
Source: Library | Some one recommended this book in one of my Goodreads book clubs
198 pages




In a nutshell
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...

I'm usually not a big fan of YA lit, though I love reading YA book reviews and also indiscriminately add them to my TBR. Speak surprised me. I actually connected with this book.

I think...

It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate and a stomachache.

Melinda is starting high school, but all her friends have deserted her after she called the cops in at a party and a few of them got arrested. All her ex-friends avoid her, with one mouthing "I hate you" at her. Not exactly the kind of first day you'd like, at a high school especially. But Melinda expected it, and if anything, she takes it with courage, telling herself that she will not cry.

Speak unravels Melinda's one year at high school. Considering that high school is usually hard, it is especially a nightmare for Melinda. Speak also addresses a lot of important issues, but mainly about communication. Melinda's family communicates through Post-It notes stuck on the refrigerator.

I write when I need school supplies or a ride to the mall. They write what time they'll be home from work and if I should thaw anything. What else is there to say?

What else is there to say? That mis-communication or rather lack of it causes Melinda to grow distant over time. Melinda has a secret, something that has upset her enough to withdraw from everyone in school. There is a certain "it", who triggers fear in her, each time "it" passes by her. Her grades suffer. Her teachers talk with her parents. Her parents shrug with exasperation and ignorance. The author brings about these sentiments very well through the book. Considering this is a very short read, every word counts to the story and is not wasted.

Speak takes a funny note occasionally. Melinda describes the education system at her high school, which occasionally makes for snorting moments.

We are studying American history for the ninth time in nine years. Another review of map skills, one week of Native Americas, Christopher Columbus in time for Columbus Day, the Pilgrims in time for thanksgiving. Every year, they say we're going to get right up to the present, but we always get stuck in the Industrial Revolution. We got to World War I in seventh grade - who knew there had been a war with the whole world? We need more holidays to keep the social studies teachers on track.

I enjoyed the writing style in this book. Though occasionally, I got lost and confused between paragraphs, I quickly caught up. What fascinated me most was the names of the chapters. I liked how they appear to be conceived from a teenager's mind and how they are not too trivial.

Overall, this is a good read. It is written well from a teen's perspective, but this is one of the books even adults (esp old adults like me who struggle to connect with YA) can enjoy.

Title Demystified
Before starting this book, the title was a total mystery to me. But it made perfect sense on completion. Interesting how one word captures the whole idea. Initially I connected the title with just Melinda, who struggles to speak ever since the party. On reflection, I felt that the title can be applied to her parents as well, who fail in almost every parenting test in communication.

Cover Art Demystified
The tree superimposed on a girl's face forms a huge crux of the story. One of Melinda's classes is Art, in which she excels. Her assignment is to create a tree using any medium. The cover art really envelopes Melinda's troubles and her mental state very well.

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

Did you sign-up for the Glorious giveaway?

11 comments:

Helen's Book Blog said...

Speak is one of my favorite YA books! Students who read it love it, recommend it to their friends, and want to read more by her. I think it covers such important issues for teenage girls: assault, speaking out, friendships, peer pressure, etc.

bermudaonion said...

I thought this book was great! You made me laugh when you said "old adults" like you! Wait 'til you meet me!

Kristen said...

I didn't love it nearly as much as everyone else. But then I think I spent so much of the time wondering where the heck her negligent parents were that it tainted my read a bit. (And yes, I did read it after I had become a parent myself.)

Aarti said...

Wow, this sounds like a really interesting premise for a book to tackle pretty big subjects. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Emidy said...

I heard about this book a few years ago and have been wanting to read it ever since! I'm glad that you liked it.

Diane said...

I;ve read lots of great reviews on this book. SO glad u enjoyed this one as well..

Lisa said...

My daughter doesn't much care to read but this was a book that really grabbed her and got her hooked on the author.

Erisian (FNORDinc.com) said...

sounds good :)

i might have to read this just to find out why she narc'd on her pals.

talk about a faux pas that will alienate. does the trick faster than magic marker phallus on the face, ala 10 things i hate about you..

not as fast as a stealing someone's boy friend.

Aths said...

Helen, I agree with that! I am impressed that she writes book with important themes!

Kathy, LOL! I somehow do feel I am old for YA, though I'm just 26. I really need to change my mind-setting.

Kristen, isn't that sad about her parents? I have come across parents like that, who rarely notice their child. I felt bugged by that.

Aarti, you should read this! I was impressed that this YA book has some good themes.

Emidy, I recently read your review, so I am glad you loved it too!

Diane, you should read this as well.

Lisa, I'm glad to hear that. I am eager to try more books by this author.

Erisian, LOL!

Loraine272002 said...

You have a nice review! Here's mine: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2012/07/speak-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html Have a nice day!

Nadia Santos said...

I usually read fantasy and horror novels but I found this to be very engrossing, and I believe everyone who reads this young girl's "fictional" experiences can relate to it in one way or another.

Nadia
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