Laurie Halse Anderson: Speak

I am currently taking a course on library services for young adults in which I have been asked to review 10 books, so I have decided to post my reviews here too. This is my fourth review. (You can read other book reviews that I have done here if you really want to.) This book will probably appeal to teens around 13 and up. Themes include growing up, problems with parents, friendship, loneliness, social awkwardness, sexual relations. The genre is contemporary fiction.

Melinda’s life was pretty normal up to Grade 8. She had friends and sleepover parties and she expected high school to be more of the same. In the summer before Grade 9, however, Melinda and her friends go to a party hosted by high school students. Melinda gets drunk and ends up calling the police which brings the party to a crashing halt. The people who Melinda thought were her friends start ignoring her and she starts Grade 9 as a social outcast. Melinda had a good reason for calling the police, but she can’t seem to find the right way to explain it to anyone. And even if she did, who would believe her? As Melinda’s secret starts to consume her thoughts, she spends more and more time listening to her inner dialogue and less time interacting with the people around her. She almost never speaks, even when being addressed directly. Melinda finds at least temporary solace in her art class (although her art teacher seems to be going through some problems of his own) and in an abandoned janitor’s closet that she has claimed for herself. As the year goes on, Melinda fights to give voice to the girl inside who knows she did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve the kind of treatment she is getting from everyone around her.

(**includes spoiler, so don’t read it if you don’t want to learn Melinda’s secret before you read the book**)

This book deals very well with the subject of sexual assault and the way that secrets can become harder to reveal, even as they become harder for their keepers to ignore. Anderson gives Melinda a strong and often humourous voice which helps the reader identify with her as a normal teenage girl. Several subplots deal with the problem of cliques and the insane level of emphasis placed upon being popular in high school. An excellent book, and certainly an important topic to be addressed in a young adult library collection.


Here is a video that I made as a part of the review assignment.

And here is the original Powerpoint file in case you want to use it to make your own booktalk. I created the presentation, saved the slides as jpg files, and then imported them into Microsoft Movie Maker (which is free for Windows users).