Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Good and bad. I don’t know how to rate this. Amongst my GR friends this is Marmite -love it or hate, there is no in-between. I don’t adore it but I don’t loathe it either.

To begin with, I was bored to tears by the writing, of Melinda’s life and Outcast status so I skimmed but I was curious as to how everything was going to play out with IT. IT is Andy Evans, Andy Beast, Andy the rapist.

Then little things got my attention: this girl’s sense of humour (sarcastic, pessimistic and cynical), skipping school, blind teachers -this is going to sound contrived but there were some things about her and her life that reminded me of my high school self.

Speak isn’t a normal everyday book, it’s literature -there to be studied, to interpret the symbolism, to see the reflections of this and that and derive the lessons learned by reading it. In essence, it’s a school book. And who liked school? Not me…but then my favourite subject was English Lit, I never missed a class so that probably makes me a freak for liking it on that level.

For example, Melinda fainting at the sight of the dead frog’s hands and feet being splayed and pinned symbolised Melinda’s rape, overwhelming her with the memory of that night.

Lesson: It’s better out than in. Don’t let it fester. Speak up. Stand up for yourself. You can survive.

I didn’t always like the delivery of this message. Why is it always the art or English teacher making that connection with the student in need? Maybe it’s got something to do with the expression of self. Still, it would’ve been different if it had been any other teacher, or person in general. However, I did like the script-like dialogue fashion Melinda’s silence was displayed:

[Character]: [Asks question]
[Character]: [Makes comment]

Each character interprets her silence differently, usually in a way that benefits them and harms her.

David and Ivy were interesting supporting characters and potential BFFs for Melinda. David in particular was quite fascinating. I wish we’d seen more of them, and I’ll grudgingly admit Mr. Freeman, the art teacher did good too. He wasn’t too hard or too soft, or too creepy in his efforts to get Melinda to open up and express herself and her emotions in art and life.

The ending wasn’t quite enough for me. After the very long build up, we see the turning point but not the consequences. I needed to witness everyone’s reactions, whether positive (“I’m so sorry for how I’ve treated you”) or negative (“You lying attention-seeking whore!”). What happened to Andy the rapist? Where does Melinda go from here?

After writing this, I think I know my rating: 2.5 stars. Melinda and her school life were well developed, perhaps a little too developed possibly overlooking other angles and characters in the process.

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