I just read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is considered a young adult literature book. This book is very powerful, but comes with some warning from me.
**Spoiler Notice (for this review, I will be disclosing the ending and spoiling the mystery of the story. Do not read any further if you do not want this book "spoiled")**
Let me start by saying that this book is brilliant and is a National Book Award Finalist, however, this is not a book for everyone. The main character of this book is a 9th grader named Melinda. She is a total outcast at school because of an incident where she called the police on a high school party over the summer. Now that fall begins, she finds that she no longer has any friends except for a new girl in the school, and that does not seem to be going anywhere either. Melinda is getting terrible grades and is folding into herself in a state of depression (though that is not specifically mentioned) and stops speaking. The more she is overlooked by others at her school, the deeper and darker her thoughts go. The only saving grace in school is an abandoned janitor's closet that she claims as her own and her art class.
As the year progresses, Melinda finds small successes, but mostly failures. She is practically mute and is considered a freak at school when her last friend abandons her. As the story unfolds, we find out that the reason she called the police at the party was that she was actually raped that night. She is deeply disturbed every time she sees the boy that raped her, Andy, who happens to go to the same school she does. As it turns out, her ex-best friend, Rachel, from middle school begins to date Andy. This puts Melinda in a quandary because Rachel does not speak to her and would not believe her if she told her that she was raped by Andy. Melinda decides she has to speak up. Of course Rachel does not believe Melinda, until she confronts Andy at prom. Andy and Rachel subsequently break up and Andy attacks Melinda in her janitor closet hideaway after school a couple of days later. Luckily Melinda is able to defend herself and finally speaks up (screams) and a team practicing after school comes to save her.
Back to the review: I would say that as a parent, I am glad that I read this book at the same time as my daughter. There are some very mature themes here and I believe they need to be discussed. Some items we discussed were friendships, depression, suicide, isolation, rape, and how quickly things can go bad and how you have to speak to people about your problems. If I had a child that was on the verge of depression, who had a traumatic experience, or is immature, I would think twice before letting them read this book.
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