Ashlie's Reviews > Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
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's review
Jan 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorite-reads-of-2010
Read in November, 2010

On Melinda's first day of high school, she says that she is outcast. She doesn't say that she is an outcast, but that she is outcast. I think this is a very simple, yet powerful statement. It tells us that she isn't one of the others who are also outcast, that would mean that she might be at least part of a group, but instead she is a lone wolf in unknown territory. She is outside her peers in every sense and form. Outcast. This sentence made me think of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, when Esmeralda sings "God Help the Outcast," and is seeking refuge in the cathedral. We have all had moments when were were outcast, we know that those times are sad and lonely, despairing and depressing, but they are brief and temporary, fleeting at best. Melinda experiences permanent solitude and rejection, all for busting up a party where a bunch of high school kids were breaking the law. It's one of those times when you want to say, "But it's not fair!" but know that someone will almost instantaneously tell you, "Life's not fair!" That's high school for you.

Speak is told from Melinda's POV. Since most of the dialogue is inside her head, you draw a parallel to her character, even if you've never felt like she has or been through what she has experienced. While "reading her mind," we can see the emotions and struggles that Melinda is going through and how much of it she still has yet to process herself. In her mind we find humor, and it even offered me the chance to recall some of my own high school memories, both pleasant and...not so much, but most importantly we can come to understand her pain and her complete isolation and withdrawal, from herself and everyone around her. It is a very somber, honest novel. I would even go so far as to say it is profound.

I really enjoyed the correlation between Melinda's understanding of her feelings to her art project. It gave us a different perspective to measure Melinda's progress through and it was a great and creative narrative device. This book also gives honest insight into the education system in the US. Everything has become so politically correct and school boards in particular are one of the organizations I like the least. Mr. Freeman's open rebellion against them, if not artistic, is at least noble. You can tell he's standing up for the kids, which is what education is ALWAYS supposed to be about. I was grateful for the censorship dynamic that Anderson wrote into the book because I know it is realistic.

Speak is a sad story, even though it's funny and hopeful at times, but it is so realistic and relatable. It's angsty, but the mood is constantly changing, which is very reflective of a teenager. Anderson does a great job of capturing emotions in simple (yet not immature) sentences that are very clear. Anderson must remember being a teenager very well because she got every word right, set all the moods right and got their timing perfectly. I can't wait to read her other books now.

I think every teenager should read this book. I think every parent, every teacher, and every person who works in a school should read this book. If you're a school bully, you should read this book (if you know how to read-& then quit picking on other kids!). It's a book that should be read many times over and shared with others, especially your children.

Speak is phenomenal. It will tug at your heartstrings until they bleed (metaphorically :). It is a good, short read, moving yet bitter-sweet. It's to-the-point is a clear manner, without being too rushed or hurried and without giving away too much too soon. Speak needs to be shared with everyone.

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Quotes Ashlie Liked

Laurie Halse Anderson
“When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson
“You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

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