06 March 2012

Book Review: Speak

New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.
I've been meaning to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for several years now.  I saw the movie first, then heard from others how great the book was.  I bought a copy and, like so many others I buy, it sat on one of my bookshelves while I read books I had to get back to the library.

This past weekend I read it.


Powerful. Funny. Sad. Depressing. Uplifting. And those are just a few descriptive words for it. Beautifully done. 

At one point the art teacher, Mr. Freeman, finds that the main character, Melinda, is stuck on her art project.  He tells her, "Your imagination is paralyzed. You need to take a trip."

The trip is not the sort of thing the students in the class are thinking of at all.  Mr. Freeman brings her a huge volume of works by Pablo Picasso.  Using art as inspiration for art.  And that is exactly what Laurie Halse Anderson has given us in the pages of Speak - a trip, in the Picasso sense of the word.

This is the kind of book you don't want to put down.  (I say that for a lot of books, but this one is über-un-put-downable.)

Speak starts on Melinda Sordino's first day of high school and she starts it in the worst possible way anyone can start high school: friendless - and with a very low prospects of making friends in the near future.  Most of her peers avoid her because she was the one who called the cops during a party she went to over the summer. A party a thirteen year old girl normally wouldn't have made it into.  

The book takes Melinda through her whole year of school as she tries to deal with what happened that night in silence.  Until she finds the strength to speak.

Melinda may not 'say' much, but her voice keeps you with her through her entire journey. If you haven't read Speak, I highly recommend it. If I were making a list for high school students, this would be on a 'must read' list. 

If you have read it, I'd love to hear what you thought of the book.

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