Elizabeth's Reviews > Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
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Dec 05, 11

bookshelves: smells-like-teen-spirit
Read from May 22 to June 17, 2010

Bleak YA novel that tries to be a cautionary tale. Worse, it was assigned reading for our #1 in her Language Arts class. Students were asked to read this book for a bullying unit.


Um, this is not a story about bullying. It is about the injustice of RAPE (though it never addresses the particular damage of rape). Instead it is the story of a young girl who is so disconnected from everyone that she is unable to speak after being assaulted until her rapist targets her ex best friend. She tells no one about the assault and though she is much changed after being raped (and continues to be harassed by her rapist) NO ONE notices or cares enough to take the time to figure out what is going on with her. Not her friends, not her parents, not the high school counselor, principal, or her teachers.

This is NOT an example of how to protect oneself and definitely not a book that lends itself to classroom discussion in middle school. How many 12/13 year old students would be comfortable discussing rape and ambivalent parents or professionals?

Folks, we are shortchanging our kids and students if we think this is education.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen I read this in college as part of a class on YA novels, and was impressed. Let me know what you think.

Elizabeth I will- my twelve year old daughter chose it from a class reading list for a bullying unit and (after) reading it came to me in a sort of shell-shocked state. I told her it sounded more of a girl's story about assault (and its aftermath) vs. bullying THOUGH I can see where the teacher was coming from.


message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen I am trying to remember, but I guess 12 is an o.k. age for this book. I mean, I was in my 20s and felt a little shell-shocked, so... hmm.

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I read this book on a recommendation by a friend who was teaching this in her 8th grade class- like Karen I felt a little bit shocked on reading it, but then it seems to me that there is a big difference between when I was 12 and what 12 year olds experience now so- perhaps your average 12 year old is a little bit more aware, or needs to be a little bit more aware, of these situations than I did as a kid? But I don't know.

message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Except the whole first half of the book IS about bullying; the kids torturing and taunting her about breaking up the party, hence why she chooses to stay silent.

Elizabeth Jen ::

It has been a couple of years since I read this book and so I do not remember the details of the bullying. I remember that she was pegged as the reason the party ended but not actively bullied by her peers (at least not physically- that was by her rapist). Her silence was because of the rape and the adults in her life did nothing to figure out why she was rendered mute. This is a separate issue from bullying.

Helen Stevens Maybe it's better for 12/13 year old kids to read a book about rape and realise that it could happen, and thus be a bit more cautious about who they go off alone with at parties, than for us to worry that the book might make them 'uncomfortable', and not educate them at all.

Elizabeth Ah, "the message."

I hear what you are saying. My twelve year old was not uncomfortable (though). This book scared her.

Annalisa Hmm. I think 12 is a little young. 14 okay, but 12? I have an 11-year-old (6th grade) and I wouldn't want her reading this next year. It's hard to say how I'll feel when she's in 8th, when she's 13, but I think 12 is too young.

message 10: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I haven't read it, just this thread. From that, I thought that the really scary thing was not the rape itself, but, rather, not being able to speak. Like being buried alive. If, having read the book, that rings true, then discussing that aspect could be like implanting a lifeline for later use. As someone who had trouble revealing myself, I think that could be a big thing.


Rachel As someone who read this for the first time as a 12/13 year old, I think it was the perfect time to read it. I've read it since and still feel it is an incredible book that young people should be exposed to.

Jbird Ummm.... I am a middle schooler and I read this and thought it may very well be the most powerful literature I have ever read. I don't know who you're kidding when you say it does not educate us. I got that it is okay to speak up, even in turnoil such as rape. I learned that you have to be responsible at parties, and you have to be brave in serious situations. And of course there is bullying!!! The main character's ex-best friend sends hate messages to her!!!
I pity you if you cannot see what I have seen in Ms. Anderson's heart wrenching novel.

message 14: by J. (new)

J. Dear God thank you. I'm completely blown away by the sick messed up garbage being shoveled at our kids, even by the schools. I managed to *gasp* graduate high school without reading anything this messed up, and you know what? I'm a perfectly balanced human. Gee, I wonder why our kids are shooting up their classmates and cutting themselves. What, with all this sunshine and inspiration and all.

message 15: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice On the other hand, how many have been rescued by reading a book about someone who felt just like them or had had the same devastating experiences, while previously believing they were all alone?

Brooke You just made my day with this review...and that shelf. :D

Elizabeth Brooke wrote: "You just made my day with this review...and that shelf. :D"

Thank you, Brooke! You are sweet to say so. :)

Elizabeth Jbird wrote: "Ummm.... I am a middle schooler and I read this and thought it may very well be the most powerful literature I have ever read. I don't know who you're kidding when you say it does not educate us. ..."

Ummm.... I am an adult and I have a different opinion and perspective than you. No need to be rude. Play nice.

Elizabeth Jan wrote: "On the other hand, how many have been rescued by reading a book about someone who felt just like them or had had the same devastating experiences, while previously believing they were all alone?"


Yes, I hear you and see your point. I hated that the main character who lost her voice was so isolated. Sadly, no one thought to get to the bottom of her muteness. That was the tragedy.

Sabrina N yeah no one notices her, that's an issue, you want everything to go right but it doesn't, melinda has to grow around that

Bentoboxcreature22 I agree with you that this book has almost nothing to do with the traditional definition of bullying. However, I think you may have misunderstood Speak's message, along with whoever assigned it for your bullying unit. Speak is not a cautionary tale. Melinda made a lot of bad choices that should not be taken as advice by readers. So many people seem to view this book as a vessel for a message for young girls who don't feel like they can stand up for themselves, but I think a lot of people forget than Ms. Anderson was chronicling Melinda's story, as well as raising awareness of rape and how it can affect so many. As I said before, Melinda made bad choices by not telling anyone what happened to her, but only because she, quite simply, didn't know better. Her parents never talked to her about emotions, and she didn't feel like she had anyone she could tell what happened to her to. Nothing that happened in the book can be blamed on Melinda. I think Ms. Anderson wants people to realize that rape is not a topic that can be glossed over, especially not with young kids, and she wants to attempt to make sure that no rape victim feels like they can't tell anyone; but also, she wanted Melinda to be heard. So, more than a cautionary tale or a protection manual, this is an educational book meant to let not just girls, but everyone know that keeping quiet like Melinda is NOT the answer, and if you speak up, someone will hear you.

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