By Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak is a novel that follows a girl through her first year of high school. Freshman year is hard enough for a “normal” teenager, but Melinda Sordino has an even tougher time overcoming obstacles that are thrown her way. Melinda is treated as a utter and complete outcast for her actions at the biggest party of the summer. As a reaction to what happened between her and Andy Evans, Melinda broke up the biggest party most of the school had ever seen.
Now, Melinda is forced to face the consequences. She is tormented with names, glares, and is cast aside by even her former best friends. The only two people who know just what happened that night, won’t even look Melinda in the face. Melinda, lost, confused and haunted by memories of what happened that summer night, can’t even speak anymore. Every time she opens her mouth, she finds herself completely unable to speak, or just a few mumbled syllables will escape.
Making the janitors closet her personal escape space from the grim realities of school. Her other escape that she finds is through her art and writing. She slowly begins to heal and eventually speaks out to the school about her physical and emotional wounds that have built up through the year.
Speak, though written rather coloquially, has a hard message to deliver. It shows the troubles that rape victims deal with everyday, how harsh your peers can be and it forces the average high school reader to assess their words and actions. In order to show the consquences of rape and the troubles of high school, the novel has to speak in a manner that relates to the target audience, of the high school youth. The novel is an easy read, with a hard message.
Why is this book “dangerous?”:
This book has mainly been challenged and banned by overprotective parents. These parents do not want their kids to read about drinking, getting out of control, rape, bullying and other topics that the book addresses. These parents, PTAs and school boards that try to protect their kids from problems that every high school faces, are living in a dream world. By trying to shelter their kids from these things, they are only doing them a disservice. Laurie Halse Anderson has produced a novel that makes adolescents think about their actions and about the actions of their peers. Why any parent would want to protect their kids from examining their actions and the obstacles many teenagers face, is a protective measure we should all question.