Tuesday 3 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Guest Review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Today, I would like to welcome Viv from Serendipity Reviews. She will be guest reviewing the much-loved Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson which I’ve always meant to read.

This edition published by Hodder Children’s Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Books) in 2008

Pages – 230

Opening Lines
It is my first day of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomach ache.

Goodreads Summary
When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.
This book is one of those stories where you are fully aware that something has happened to the main character but you are not really sure exactly what occurred. You could hazard a guess, but you might be slightly off the mark. You know that Melinda used to have a social life before she called the police to an illegal party, but it takes a while before you find out what actually happened.  I found myself getting rather impatient to know the truth when it still wasn’t revealed by the middle of the book.

That doesn’t mean  to say that I didn’t enjoy the book because I did. I found it to be a very powerful and moving story. I felt such empathy for Melinda and could hear her cries for help from her  silent voice. Melinda’s traumatic experience caused her to shut down her emotions in order to block it out, which leads to her becoming a selective mute.  She suffered for a whole year, spending all her time on the outskirts of the school’s social life and yet she had done nothing to warrant her outcasted position. She had suffered traumatically, and yet was still suffering long after the fateful night because she was too frightened to talk about it. Yet amidst all the anguish, Melinda does have a humorous side to her, which helps her survive the minefield known as high school. Only you as the reader can see the real Melinda, and you find yourself morphing into her as you feel her pain and anguish as well as being able to see the hilarity of the school system.

Melinda’s parents really annoyed me. To begin with they could not see that she was suffering and when they did realise it, they really didn’t do a lot to solve the problem.  It shows how parents can often fail to listen to what is not being said.

I loved the use of symbolism throughout the story. The use of the trees throughout Melinda’s art work project seemed to reflect her growth as she began the year quite stunted in her abilities to socialize and join in, but as time passed and her mind began to heal, she began to branch out to reach her old friends for support. As her artistic trees began to flourish, so did her social life.  This book also brought in the history of the suffragettes which again showed how Melinda needed to be heard.

This book gives a very clear picture of how high school works and it really isn’t pretty. The cliques that occur in school are over emphasised to reflect the idiotic nature in which they are formed. The Martha’s resemble an identical parade of Barbie Dolls with their matching outfits.  The author is excellent at poking fun at the international high school hierarchy system.

The way that rape is dealt with in this book, made it easier to read. It is one of those subjects that I find difficult to read about, but I found the author dealt with the incident delicately.

This book shows how one voice can make a difference. If just one person stands up to a bully, it can often create a domino effect, where others will stand up to tell the truth. From one message on the wall, Melinda became a hero in the end.

A book to make you laugh and cry whilst pinpointing the absurdity of high school cliques.

Thanks, Viv!


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