Thursday, May 5, 2016

LS 5603 20 Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Puffin, 2001. ISBN 9780141310886

Plot Summary:
Melinda Sordino ruined an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. She had a good reason for doing so, but no one knows this. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.

Critical Analysis: 
One of the greatest aspects of contemporary fiction is the focus on the character and their personal growth, without the need for tons of bells and whistles like you tend to see with other genres. It is understandable why this book has arrived on so many banned book lists, and why it garners controversy often. Melinda goes through something truly horrific, and she deals with the aftermath by herself, leading to a lot of struggle and emotion. Melinda is certainly a believable character, one that the reader feels for and roots for throughout the entirety of the book. The reader understands what she has gone through while none of the other characters do, making it that much more heart breaking. Melinda's personality, attitude, and dialogue is very believable for someone who has gone through something so tragic.

While the reader is told the school where the story is set, it really could take place at any high school, in any city. The students are the same ones we see everywhere, which makes the whole story that much more relate able. They have characters from every group, and they all act in a way that is natural for their high school age.  The plot is also steady and believable, while not always completely obvious or the norm. There are times when it is not clear what might happen next, and the ending could certainly go more than one way. It ends in a way that gives us hope for our protagonist, which is vital in a book with such deep and moving subject matter.

Anderson has a clear style that transcends through all of her books and makes her characters seem incredibly fragile and believable. The style of the writing is beautiful, and almost philosophical at times. The words are never too harsh or cruel, making it a great and appropriate read for high school level teens.

Review Excerpts: 

From Publisher's Weekly: "In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager."

From School Library Journal: "Laurie Halse Anderson’s edgy first novel for teens was immediately recognized as groundbreaking, and its little-known author was praised for her ability to write artfully about tough topics such as date rape."

This book has gotten a lot of controversy over the years due to the content contained within the pages, as it covers a topic that some see as taboo. This does mean teachers and librarians must be cautious when sharing this book. I do believe it is a wonderful suggestion to those mature enough to read it, and it can teach great lessons for teens struggling through many different life situations. 


  1. I read this book for a YA lit class a few years ago and really liked it. It talks about an important issue and does a better job of it than many other books that deal with the same topic. Great review.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. This book tells and amazing story that is believable and often relatable. I see bits of Melinda in many people I know that are her age, and it's amazing how well her story is told. Her commentaries on schools and their inhabitants are often very true. Overall, one of the best books I've ever read!

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