Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Book Review

It’s been over 10 years since Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak was printed to both acclaim and dismay. I recently picked up the platinum edition at a book sale and reread it. I’d forgotten just how hauntingly beautiful the voice of narrator Melinda is and why young adults need to read her story.

The summer before Melinda Sordino is to begin high school, she makes a decision that will brand her an outcast. Entering high school is difficult, even under the best circumstances, and Melinda’s decision to remain silent through the bullying and ostracizing is a powerful testament to the damage she’s suffered. As the year progresses and Melinda sees that her once childhood friend faces the same danger she's endured, Melinda's courage and strength will finally allow her to speak.

Warning spoiler – don’t read the conclusion section if you’ve not read the book:

In the author interview section at the end of the platinum edition, Ms. Anderson answers what has been the most shocking question asked of her during the ten years: “I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped. The first dozen times I heard this, I was horrified. But I heard it over and over again. I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman. They are inundated by sexual imagery in the media, and often come to the (incorrect) conclusion that having sex is not a big deal...."*

I read this statement to a few young men who admitted that they could understand this perception. This led to further discussions about the media’s objectifying young girls and women. It’s an important discussion and one that makes Speak an important read for all teens: males especially.

Recommended for all high school English classrooms and libraries.

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Genre: Realistic Fiction. Age: Young Adult. Pages: 208

Themes: Strength of Character, Alienation, Pain, Bullying
Advisory: Due to mature content, parents should be notified.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Date: October 1999.
ISBN-10: 0374371520 / ISBN-13 978-0374371524
Awards for Speak:
2000 Printz Honor Book
1999 National Book Award Finalist
Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Winner SCBWI Golden Kite Award
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Buy Speak Here

There are so many lesson plans, discussion guides and teaching notes for this fantastic book. I'll list a few of the better sites I've found:
Excellent teaching resources from Ms. Anderson's own website here
Discussion question & activities from Ms. Dawn Hogue of Cyber English here
Activities from Sachem East English Dept. Ms. Fischer here
A WebQuest by Annie Ulery and Laura Vehorn
Several links from Web English Teacher

Read about the movie from 2004 here

RAINN: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network

Staggering poem written and spoken by author Laurie Halse Anderson in honor of the 10th anniversary of Speak and the numerous letters she's received:

Laurie Halse Anderson really wants you to pronounce her maiden name correctly. One of her favorite childhood foods was Quisp cereal, but she now leans more toward pumpkin pie. You can learn more about her on her website.

* Quote taken from Anderson Laurie Halse: Speak Platinum Edition (Tandem Library), San Val , 2006. ISBN-10: 1417750812
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
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