Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

This book has been on my to be read list for quite some time, and after this past week's events I decided to bump it to the top of my list and read it this week. I was upset to see that someone was trying to add it to the Banned Book List as I have loved every Laurie Halse Anderson book I have read to date.

I was not disappointed in Speak at all. I loved the way it was written, almost journal like or glimpses of the thoughts flowing through Melinda's mind at different moments in time. I really could not put this book down and read until the wee hours of the night to finally see Melinda find her voice and speak out against the boy who raped her. It brought me to tears, both for feeling her pain and also seeing her finally soar and become the person she knew was stuck deep inside.

The first person narrative gave an edge to the story, almost like a real voice, that tears at your heart strings as her story progresses through the heartache of being alone and trying to make it through the first year of high school with no one, then trying to fight the nightmares that plague her daily and finally breaking her silence and fighting back.

I really do think that this book is a worthwhile read for teens. It shows not only that you can have a voice about any situation where they need help or someone to talk to, but it also deals with a difficult family life, losing friends, feeling like you've lost your identity, trying to fit in, and more.

I also related to it on another level, in that the art teacher is one of the only people who seems to inspire Melinda or help her think things through without her really realizing it. I had an art teacher in high school who changed my outlook on a lot of issues and opened my eyes to the world around me - I will never forget him.

This one scene actually made me see that someone (her art teacher) notices her pain even if they don't realize that she didn't mean to show them. I don't even think Melinda realized she was pretty much creating art to show her pain and cry for help.
I glue the bones to a block of wood, arranging the skeleton like a museum exhibit. I find knives and forks in the odds-'n'-ends bin and glue them so it looks like they are attacking the bones.
"I see a girl caught in the remains of a holiday gone bad, with her flesh picked off day after day as the carcass dries out. The knife and fork are obviously middle-class sensibilities. The palm tree is a nice touch. A broken dream, perhaps?" ... Mr. Freeman: "This has meaning. Pain."
And lastly - the tree metaphors - she has an assignment to draw a tree. I think the tree was supposed to represent growth and change for Melinda. I think it shows how none of us are perfect and that things happen that change us, but do not make us any less who we are. And in the end this is what happens (it's beautiful to read):

My tree is definitely breathing; little shallow breaths like it just shot up through the ground this morning. This one is not perfectly symmetrical. The bark is rough. I try to make it look as if initials had been carved in it a long time ago. One of the lower branches is sick. If this tree really lives someplace, that branch better drop soon, so it doesn't kill the whole thing. Roots knob out of the ground and the crown reaches for the sun, tall and healthy. The new growth is the best part.
The scenes in this book are not graphic in the least. They are mentioned, but not detailed in a way that would disgust someone - just mentioned so that we know it happened. They are pertinent details to the story, so that you feel Melinda's fear and understand the emotions it has created. I do not understand those who relate it to anything more than that.

I can see why this book won a Printz Award. And I honestly hope that it stays off the Banned Book List.

Received from: purchased


  1. I want to read this book to see what all this chaos is about.

  2. Banning books is the sign of a weak mind.

  3. I think I've heard more about this book and talked with more people reading it since it became a potentially banned book than ever before. So while I wholeheartedly condemn the idea of banning books, I think the controversy has actually done good things for Speak's publicity.

    Maybe if the trend continues, people will stop calling for books to be banned simply because it's a sure-fire way to get more people to read those titles!

  4. @lisa - I totally agree. I had already planned to read this book and owned it, but it made me bump it to the top of the list to understand the controvery and be able to give an actual opinion instead of one based on other peoples thoughts. :)


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