Speak Book Review

The cover of Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Speak”. The main character’s growth throughout the novel is paralleled with her artistic improvement in her art class.

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The cover of Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Speak”. The main character’s growth throughout the novel is paralleled with her artistic improvement in her art class.

“Speak” is the story of a highschool student faced with constant struggle and discernment. Through main character, Melinda, Laurie Halse Anderson illustrates character growth in light of sexual assault. Within her high school, thirteen year old Melinda Sordino struggles both socially and academically, with a constant wave of sadness over her. The novel is in the first person, making it significantly more personal. Melinda clearly struggles with depression and disordered thoughts. The reason why isn’t revealed by the author until nearly the end of the book. Melinda routinely roams the hall with fear, trying to avoid the cold stares of her old friends. Her parents ignore her and the emotional help she needs. Instead they focus on material aspects like her physical appearance and blame her for insufficient grades. The only action they take is overwhelming Melinda with unattainable expectations. The one person that tries to emotionally support Melinda is her art teacher, Mr. Freeman.

Even though this book was hard to read because it alludes to many graphic topics that are unsettling to some, I felt this book was not only educational but best portrays an accurate highschool environment. While reading this book, It felt like I was walking through the halls with Melinda; a writing accomplishment I hope to one day achieve. Laurie Halse Anderson does just that, her exceptional dialogue and choice to write in the first person is what makes this book so unique. This book highlights critical topics such as, sexual assault and the post-traumatic stress disorder that follows. Melinda suffers from severe depression and copes with self harm and negative ideals. She is forced to isolate as the entire school has shunned her from teenage society.

When I heard my friends talking about this book, it didn’t sound exceptionally appealing. The story of a depressed highschool student attempting to survive her freshman year didn’t sound like the type of book I would look forward to reading at the end of the day. However, “Speak” exceeded any and all expectations. I highly recommend everyone read “Speak, it has an important message and should be read by anyone looking to become more aware of their societal injustices and struggles.
After reading this novel, I did some background research on the news surrounding the book. I was curious to whom this book was meant for. The dialogue and mannerisms of this novel seem to allude to the young adult audience, but the explicit themes in the novel would appeal to a slightly older audience.

In 2011, “Speak” was challenged when some people brought attention to the themes of the book and wanted it banned. This was because it “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex” (Marshall.edu). Personally, I understand the book had heavy topics that the reader should be made aware of before reading. However, “Speak” does far from “glorifying” drinks, cursing and sex. Melinda’s story is nothing less than a story about awareness.

As a result of “Speak” being challenged, the book then was banned in many libraries and schools in 2021 because it was, “thought to contain a political viewpoint, and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity” (Marshall.edu). Allowing books that teach students many important real-world topics allow students to become more educated. Learning about our society through literature is one of the few ways students can become aware of their surroundings.
Young adults in our society are bound to make choices and mistakes that they can’t change. Not only does her story bring awareness, but it is also very real. Many young women and men can be in situations where they are taken advantage of. By attempting to ban books that educate students, students will be uneducated and unprepared for their future in society.
“Speak” and other books similar must be available for students to read so they can have the opportunity to explore their own choices. Censoring literature students can read strips them of their right to learn and will result in younger generations being unprepared for the harsh realities of today’s world.