Book Title:
Book Author:
Laurie Halse Anderson
Page Count:
Publishing Date:
May 10th, 2011
Square Fish
Date Read:
March 12st, 2019


The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"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.

My Review

Speak is one of those books that I read a long time ago, and I recently reread after reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s new book, Shout. I really enjoyed that book, so I really felt that it was time to go back and revisit this one, and I’m glad I did.

I felt that Speak had an even bigger impact on me this time around than it did the first time I read it. Maybe that’s because I’m older now and I can really appreciate the themes in the book a lot more, or maybe it’s because I felt like since I had already known and loved the main character, I could really appreciate her a lot more.

Either way, rereading this book was one of the best reading experiences that I’ve had in a long time.

Before I even decided to review this, I had to ask myself…do I really need to review this book? I mean, it’s one of the most influential young adult titles in existence, even all these years after its original publication. Countless reviews have been written for this book, so what’s one more?

And then I realized that I wanted to review it because it’s just as important today as it ever was, and there are still a lot of people out there who haven’t read it, especially newcomers into the young adult fiction world, so yes, I’m going to review it.

“I am Outcast.”

Melinda is starting high school, and unlike the great time it will be for her peers and former friends, Melinda is the school outcast: no one wants anything to do with her. After all, they have all heard what she did at the party that summer – how she called the cops and ruined it, getting everyone busted.

So now, on her first day, Melinda has it go it alone.

“I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.”

Melinda tries to make everything right with her friends, but none of them will listen to her. None of them want to hear about what really happened at that party, or about what the real reason behind Melinda’s calling the cops was. All they know is that she ruined it, and she is to be shunned. Eventually Melinda gets tired of trying to explain, and stops speaking, feeling incredibly isolated and alone. She spends most of her time alone in a cozy closet she set up in school, or skipping altogether.

“It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.”

However, when another encounter with someone from that party arises, Melinda isn’t going to sit back – she fights back, and finally gets people to listen to her and notice her.

This book has a lot going on in it, and it can be difficult to read at times because of the themes, but it is so damn important.

The writing is phenomenal – I really felt like I was in Melinda’s life and hearing her story took me on an emotional roller coaster from page one. I love that in a book – if a story and character can really connect to create something amazing like this, I can’t help but fall in love. And fall in love with Speak, I did.

Melinda’s character is one of the most incredibly written characters I’ve come across in a book, pretty much ever. She is so well fleshed out personality wise, and it is so easy to love her when reading this book.

I’m not going to talk too much about this one, but if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. Whether you have read any of Laurie Halse Anderson’s other books (such as the newly released memoir Shout), this is an important staple to any young adult library or book collection. It is one of my favorites, and I know that when my daughters are older I will be sharing this book with them, as well.

5 stars
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One Response to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. Dianna says:

    I read this book as an adult, and it was the type of story I wish I’d read as a teen!

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