Elizabeth's Reviews > Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
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May 22, 2010

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

Bleak YA novel that reads as a cautionary tale. This was assigned reading for our #1 in her Language Arts class. Students were asked to read this book for a bullying unit though it is more about the injustice of rape (it does not address the particular damage of rape). 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 her own 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 caused her to quit talking. Not her friends, not her parents, not the high school counselor, principal, or her teachers. It is not an example of how to protect oneself and probably not a book that lends itself to class discussion in middle school. I am trying to imagine 12/13 year old students discussing rape and ambivalent parents & teachers. Not impossible but unlikely.
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06/19/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 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.


message 2: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 27, 2017 05:20PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

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.


Jen the Book Lady 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.


message 8: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 27, 2017 05:21PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elizabeth I hear what you are saying. My twelve year old was not uncomfortable mostly worried.


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.


Behkii THANK YOU!


Rachel Lena 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.


Jackie 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. :)


message 18: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 27, 2017 05:22PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

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. ..."

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?"

Jan,

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.


message 22: by AJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

AJ I don't understand why so many people were offended that this was required reading in some schools. The rape wasn't described in great gratuitous detail and young girls, and definitely young boys, should know about these things and that they can happen to them. Plus chances are at least one child in your daughter's class has been through something like this and won't find the material unfamiliar. And J, what is wrong with you? School shooting are not an invention of the 21st century, in fact, youth violence has been dropping in recent years. I don't think a book about a girl struggling with being raped is going to cause any murders...


message 23: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 27, 2017 05:23PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elizabeth AJ wrote: "I don't understand why so many people were offended that this was required reading in some schools. The rape wasn't described in great gratuitous detail and young girls, and definitely young boys, ..."

i was not offended that this was required reading in schools. i was concerned that it was introduced too early. at the time, my daughter had just turned twelve and the content unsettled her. i reject the idea that this is the way to educate students about such issues.


message 24: by AJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

AJ If you have different methods of teaching your daughter about rape and sexual safety then that's your business, as is whatever trouble you've had with your daughter's teacher, but is that really any fault of the author? Or have any bearing on the quality of the book? It kind of gets to me when an angry mom helps lower the overall rating of a good book just because she had an opinion on required reading in public schools.


message 25: by Elizabeth (last edited Apr 27, 2017 05:23PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elizabeth AJ wrote: "If you have different methods of teaching your daughter about rape and sexual safety then that's your business, as is whatever trouble you've had with your daughter's teacher, but is that really an..."

hmmm.
angry mom?
not accurate.

this book came to my attention because it was assigned to my daughter’s class during a unit on bullying. to the extent it made any connection with her it was negative. i read it and cannot understand how it would be useful in a bullying unit. the book has events and themes that are (IMHO) inappropriate for this age group, and being as objective as possible i see little useful in this book for any age.

so this book gets a 2 stars in the context of 11/12 year olds who might have to read it for school AND i found it pretty poor at delivering anything useful on the topics/themes it addresses.


message 26: by Hanna (new) - rated it 1 star

Hanna I know right? I agree with you a hundred percent.


Elizabeth Hana wrote: "I know right? I agree with you a hundred percent."

thank you for saying so, hana! :)


Cindy Newton I completely agree with you that this book is too mature for 11/12 year olds, especially in the context of required reading. I have taught it at the 9th grade level, and it works well there. The main character is 14 and entering high school, so this really resonates with them. We use it for the purpose of teaching theme and motif, both of which are obvious enough that it works well for that age. Motif, especially, is handled quite well in the book.

This is a good book at this age because a lot of these kids are overwhelmed by their new social milieu, and it goes to their heads. Suddenly they're in classes and having lunch with 16 and 17-year-olds, and they bite off more than they can chew (no pun intended). There are some school districts who house the 9th grade separately to give them a chance to adjust to being out of that middle school environment before throwing them in there with the "big boys." The scenario presented in the book is something that could, unfortunately, be a realistic situation for 14 year olds, and can be a good topic to address.

As is common in YA fiction, all the adults in the book are practically brain-dead in order for the plot to unfold. I like to think that in real life, Melinda's plight would not have been allowed to continue for an entire school year. I know that when I notice a change in behavior in a student, I talk to the student, and also consult with that child's other teachers, the counselor, and the parents to try to understand and deal with the situation.

We used it as a class novel, but we sent home letters to the parents beforehand that required a parent signature and offered the option of another book if they objected to the subject matter. I'm so sorry that your daughter was forced to read it at an inappropriate time and was frightened by it. As a teacher, I can tell you that sometimes the decisions made by districts are inexplicable--even to us!


Elizabeth Cindy wrote: "I completely agree with you that this book is too mature for 11/12 year olds, especially in the context of required reading. I have taught it at the 9th grade level, and it works well there. The ma..."

Hi, Cindy-

Again, thank you for such a thoughtful response. It is always so helpful to get an insider's view. In the end, I think this turned out to be a good assignment b/c it allowed us to talk over some scary stuff with our #1. However, it was too soon and (looking back) that was my main problem with it.

...As is common in YA fiction, all the adults in the book are practically brain-dead in order for the plot to unfold...

Yes! And it drives me crazy. It reinforces the generalization that teens and adults are at odds and that adults are not to be trusted.


message 30: by Blue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Blue Girl bullying is not physical, more of playing friends and starting rumors or ostrisising and taunting for sport. There really was not much of it but the effects were around and there was a bit. I would say it is more of a book on dealing with knowing nothing one does will change the situation (which is a typical bullying problem, needing a third party stydent to stand up to it). It does not have a lot of 'dealing' to teach coping, nor bullying, BUT it does take a long way to saying that despite the helplessness 'it does get better'. (The quote used a lot for lgbt bullying support)


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