Monday, October 25, 2010

Speak; or, Better Late than Never

by Laurie Halse Anderson
New York : Speak, 2009, c1999.

Over the summer, something happened to Melinda. Her friends won't talk to her because she called the cops during a party. Her grades are slipping; art is alright, but she's failing almost every other subject. Her parents are barely there, and when they're present, they're arguing. She doesn't talk more than she has to. Will Melinda be crushed, or be able to speak?

It's always a challenge to read a book that has so much buzz, expectation, both positive and negative comments surrounding it. Plus, Speak has been around long enough that I've meant to read it for years and I already knew what happened to Melinda. When I started reading, I was a little afraid that the book couldn't live up to my expectations or that knowing the crux of the plot would ruin its impact, but Melinda's voice pulled me in. I cared about her, I wanted to help her, but could only sit back and read and hope her character's change and growth meant that she could be healed.

**Spoiler Discussion** One of the reasons I checked it out from the library when I did was all the publicity surrounding the recent challenge by someone who called the rape scene "soft porn." So I read it with that in mind, too, and frankly I find that characterization ridiculous. The scene was one of the least-descriptive I've ever read, much more about the emotion of the character than any details, either grisly or titillating. (Not that I've read many - I'm comparing it with Just Listen and a rape scene in a book by Bodie Thoene, a Christian author who had much more detail included, though it was an adult book.) This is the type of book that, if I had gone through some of the same issues as Melinda, I would have wanted to read as a teen to see that I was not alone. Over ten years after its printing, Speak is still powerful, relevant, and a book I highly recommend.

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