Goodreads Rating: 4.0 / 5 stars
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 1st 2001
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.
I’ve been wanting to read this book for such a long time and luckily, I found this in the bargain section of our local bookstore. Speak is a challenging novel to read as it tackles sexual abuse, depression, censorship and bullying. Here are the characters and their significance in the story:
Melinda Sordino: The story is told in her perspective. She’s aloof, timid and guarded. She’s a freshmen high school student treated like an outcast in her school. They are furious when she called the cops during a party but there’s a reason behind it and she’s dying to tell the truth. Sadly, her friends distanced themselves from her and no one is willing to listen to her story. Melinda is a rape victim. She’s afraid of being judged by her traumatizing experience. Instead, she remains silent and the pain consumes her. It’s difficult to read the passages wherein her rapist freely walks in their school and she’s paralyzed by fear. It makes her feel powerless and depressive. I sympathized with her throughout the novel.
David Petrakis: He’s Melinda’s lab partner and she thought he’s snob. I’m thankful for someone like him because he helped Melinda find the strength and courage to speak up. Giving her assurance that he’s on her side when Mr. Neck tried to silence them.
Mr. Freeman: Aside from David, he’s another person I’m thankful for. He’s an art teacher who guided Melinda working on her project. Melinda may not express herself verbally but she did through an artwork and Mr. Freeman recognized her feelings. He’s definitely Mr. Neck’s polar opposite.
Mr. Neck: He’s a character who represents censorship. He only values his opinion and those people who agreed with him. He’s a close-minded, prideful and awful person.
Rachel, Iris, Nicole and Heather: Out of these four girls, I only paid close attention to Rachel, Iris and Heather. As we grow up, we meet a lot of people. Friendships were formed and fell apart at one point while only few are considered true to you. Rachel was the former best friend and I crossed my fingers that one day she and Melinda mend the gap between them (the ending of this book is one step). We all have that one friend who is a social climber and reaches you out when you’re needed Heather is a primary example. Lastly, Iris whom I think is a good listener. She may be wary at first but I have a strong feeling she’s a keeper.
Overall, this is a good realistic story. However, I find the premise really dull and I keep waiting for something important to happen. My pace started to pick up by the end of third marking period till the last part and I just wish there’s a closure. Despite of it, I like the message of this book: Never be afraid to speak up. It’s important and it leaves an impact to its readers.