Rebecca’s #CBR4 Review #34/52: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
(This is the last review I will post, out of order, because I just found I hadn’t published it)
Another day, another great YA novel. Seriously, modern YA novels may be the most reliable genre as far as quality is concerned. The authors do a lot of heavy lifting with the narrator’s voice, using their personality and perspectives in illuminating ways. The characters are original and honest. YA books never shy away from difficult or big topics, like teenage sexuality, rape, abuse, eating disorders – you name it, there is probably a YA novel that has tackled it in a forthright way.
Speak easily takes a place in this tradition. It tells the story of Melinda, a high school freshman who is ostracized from her peers. She hardly ever speaks, withdrawing from her parents and skipping school more and more as the novel goes along.
Melinda is an outsider – shunned even by her middle school friends – because she called the police at a party over the summer, where numerous students were busted for underage drinking. The reason she did so is fairly obvious – especially when she refers to an older student as “IT” and describes how he makes her skin crawl. The novel tells the story of her recovery from the trauma of that night.
The fact that the reader can fairly easily guess what happens does not draw power away from the reveal, as Speak is not so much about plot points as about finding strength and facing the past in order to move on. Melinda’s inability to articulate her experience only draws sympathy from the reader, as she moves through the already harrowing world of high school with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Speak takes on rape and abuse in an unflinching and sympathetic manner, portraying the reality of teenagers without condescending or pandering.