Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Square Fish
Copyright Date: 1999
Reading Age: 12-15
Reading Level: Grades 7-12
Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book, Golden Kite Award for Fiction, Michael L. Printz Award
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Subgenre: Trauma Fiction
The beginning of the school year found Melinda lacking the ability to really speak. Her is sore and her lips raw. She is an outcast, her former friends refusing to interact with her. Melinda withdraws more and more. In art class, she feels like she can actually be herself, and through that work, she begins to confront the trauma that caused her to lose her voice. When she begins to speak up for herself, Melinda finds she might have the strength to fight back against the upperclassman who caused her so much harm.
According to RAINN, females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. The book begins in the aftermath of Melinda becoming the school pariah because she called 911 at a teen drinking party. She struggles being an outcast, but little by little, she realizes that there is more to her memory of that night at the party. Trauma is often suppressed, and the honest portrayal of that shutting off of memory is an important detail of the story. The trauma Melinda experiences even causing her to lose her voice, showing the struggling with being heard that she is also grappling with on the inside. When she begins to come to terms with the horror of what happened to her, she finds the strength to stand up for herself and tell her truth. This book can at times be quite brutal with the reader, as Melinda confronts the reality of the rape she experienced. When her attacker tries to victimize her again, there is almost a sense of inevitability. That Melinda finds her power and stands up for herself is an empowering message for all readers and just might help teens who have experienced similar traumas to speak up for themselves as well.
Isolated, a teenaged girl with no friends, Melinda feels like the line they tell all high schoolers, to speak up for yourself, is the biggest lie in the world. Melinda has been finding it harder and harder to speak, to say anything out loud. When she starts to confront the trauma behind losing her voice, strength is found, too.
About the Author
Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author whose writing spans young readers, teens, and adults. Combined, her books have sold more than 8 million copies. Her new book, SHOUT, a memoir-in-verse about surviving sexual assault at the age of thirteen and a manifesta for the #MeToo era, has received widespread critical acclaim and was Laurie’s eighth New York Timesbestselling book.
Two of her novels, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists, and Chains was short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie medal in the United Kingdom. Laurie has been nominated for Sweden’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award three times. Laurie was selected by the American Library Association for the Margaret A. Edwards Award and has been honored for her battles for intellectual freedom by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English.
In addition to combating censorship, Laurie regularly speaks about the need for diversity in publishing and is a member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council. She lives in Philadelphia, where she enjoys cheesesteaks while she writes. Find out more about Laurie by following her on Twitter at @halseanderson, Instagram at halseanderson, and Facebook at lauriehalseanderson, or by visiting her website, madwomanintheforest.com. (About information and author image found here.)
Melinda uses art to deal with her trauma. Paint or draw while discussing the book.
Compare and contrast the novel with the graphic novel.
Challenge issues: sexual abuse, rape, bullying, violence, strong language
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Because sexual assault it is such a widespread problem in females 16-19, chances are that this book will Speak to teens that are using the collection. While at first, Melinda is so traumatized that she loses her voice, she slowly comes to terms with the horror of what happened to her and finds the strength to stand up for herself and tell her truth.