Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1999

It's about: Last year, Melinda had friends, Melinda had good grades, Melinda was happy -- until one summer night at a party changes everything, when something unspeakable happens to her and, terrified, ashamed, she calls the cops. Now, as she begins her first year of high school, Melinda finds herself hated by everyone in the school, abandoned by her former friends, and unable to open her mouth to tell anyone the truth. Instead, she becomes the silent victim to the terrible thoughts in her head and resigns herself to seeing him -- IT -- in the hallways at school.

I thought: This book is excellent. It's as though Anderson read the bit of Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that mentions her voluntary muteness, added a bit of dark humor to her person and brought her to high school, where what clique you're in defines you and self-esteem is at its most vulnerable.

The book is simple and straight forward but entirely believable and worthy of the recognition it has received. Her depiction of the high school search for an identity as well as the overall high school culture is spot-on. Some of my favorite parts of the book were her occasional, "it's funny cause it's true" lists of the lies they tell you in high school (1. You will use algebra in your adult lives... 5. Colleges care about more than your SAT scores... 8. Our bus drivers are highly trained professionals)

The subject matter is a brave one to take on, as is proven by the fact that this book has been banned in the past. However, it is an indisputably successful and important book, demonstrating the dangers of isolation and how even the most hated, silent person has a story of her own that could change you if only she would open her mouth and speak.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: There actually is a Lifetime original movie based on this book that I thought was quite good, and it follows the book very accurately. Interestingly enough, it stars Kristen Stewart before Twilight ruined her.

Here's a youtube movie with clips, but just as a warning, there are spoilers toward the end, so if you don't want to know how the story ends, just stop it about a minute or so before the clip ends.

Warnings: A scene of rape (mild description)

Favorite excerpts:
"I just want to sleep. The whole point of not talking about it, of silencing the memory, is to make it go away. It won't. I'll need brain surgery to cut it out of my head."

"I am BunnyRabbit again, hiding in the open. I sit like I have an egg in my mouth. One move, one word, and the egg will shatter and blow up the world."

"I earned a trip to MISS (Merryweather In-School Suspension). It's a classroom painted white, with uncomfortable chairs and a lamp that buzzes like an angry hive. The inmates of MISS are commanded to sit and stare at the empty walls. It is supposed to bore us into submission or prepare us for an insane asylum."