My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“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 head is killing me, my throat is killing me, my stomach bubbles with toxic waste. I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?
I randomly decided to read this book, I was really curious about this for a long time already because it had been published a handful of years ago.
This is truly a sad book, well sad may be an understatement because some parts of it were pretty depressing. I don’t recommend reading this if you don’t want to feel sadness in your heart. But this book is also honest, real, and sometimes funny because of its dry humor. And, it carries a very important message.
Here’s the thing, something happened to Melinda at a party and now everyone hates her. She enters high school all alone, she’s not friends with her old group anymore, she’s scared, scarred, threatened— she tries to find her way to survive the brutality of high school.
I found Melinda’s voice very strong, real and relatable. Like her, I had my struggles when I started high school, a new school is hard— finding a place to fit in is harder. I had my own Rachel/Rachelle’s at the start of high school, that friend you had in middle school but is now too cool to be friends with you. Then, I also had Heather, that kind of user friend whose main goal is to be friends with the cool kids but unfortunately she’s stuck with you. Then, all those classes that are just so useless and pointless. I went through a some-what depressed phase on high school where like Melinda, I just kept my mouth shut and trapped everything inside because I felt like no one will care or understand me. But Melinda, went through something I didn’t and I think her actions and perspective is understandable because of what happened to her. While I on the other hand, was just being an unstable teenager going through puberty.
As a whole, this is a gripping and well paced book. Chapters were kind of short which makes them kind of easy and quick to read. I have read a couple of books with the same themes or dealing with the same issues, Rape is never pretty to talk about. But this book sends a message that I think everyone should receive, rape victims are violated, damaged, abused and more, that being said I think they have the perfect right to feel the way like Melinda especially when like her, the victim doesn’t have anyone she trusts enough to confide with. This does not in any form makes her weak, I felt like Melinda was so strong keeping all those things to herself, but I admired her even more when she finally decided to speak up.
The family aspect was also intriguing, Melinda didn’t have a strong relationship with her parents and it seemed like her parents never saw that there was something seriously wrong with their child. I think this emphasizes the importance of family in the life of a teenager, home should be a place where we feel comfort and security, and where we find adults we can trust to talk about things without the fear of being called a liar or worse, someone who’s seeking for attention.
“But don’t expect to make a difference unless you speak up for yourself.”
In the end, it’s all about conquering our demons. I loved how it all ended in a hopeful note. How Melinda decided what happened to her might have left her damaged and broken but like a tree, she could still grow.