What’s it all about?:
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
What did I think?:
Speak is the debut novel from Laurie Halse Anderson, a truly brilliant and gifted writer and in this novel she has created a dramatic and very important story that has the potential to appeal to so many different people, not necessarily the young adult market which it was created for. Our main character is Melinda Sordino who is just about to start her first year at high school after a somewhat eventful summer (to say the least!). She was present at a house party over the summer period and called the police to break it up. The reason behind this is not explained until the middle of the novel but something happened to her at the party, something that has changed her life beyond recognition and led her to be miserable and withdrawn both at home and at school. I’m not going to reveal what happened as it could be considered a major spoiler but I did guess quite early on. However, this didn’t ruin the book for me in the slightest as when the event was recounted it was so… I want to say beautifully descriptive (which it was) but it was so hideous, awful and terribly brilliant that the words almost leapt off the page in their brutality.
The author also describes the darker side of high school very authentically as seen through the eyes of a “normal” teenager. As you can imagine, Melinda is not the most popular girl in town after breaking up a party and the popular cliques in particular make her life there a misery. So not only does she have to deal with the incident at the party but has to cope with being virtually friendless at school and as anyone who has had to deal with something like this can understand – it is truly horrible. There is one girl, Heather, who befriends her but unfortunately only until someone better or “cooler” comes along. With parents and teachers that obviously don’t understand why she seems to have had a sudden change in personality, Melinda seems doomed to be inside her own head, re-living what happened to her over and over again.
Even though as I mentioned before I guessed the secret behind “Speak,” I didn’t realise how much this book was going to affect me. The author gets inside the teenage head so beautifully and really nails the whole experience of high school with all the usual drama it provides. What did take me by surprise however was the mixture between darkness and humour, the humour especially giving a lighter tone to an otherwise disturbing subject matter. The scene where Melinda contemplates suicide was a particularly difficult passage to read but I loved that she still retained a sense of humour about other events which gave me hope for her future. As a debut novel, this is such a powerful piece of writing that should be read by everyone, young and old, male and female. I’ll certainly be checking out more of Laurie Halse Anderson’s work, she’s an amazing author who tackles tricky subjects with ease and panache and is surely destined for great things.
For my review of Laurie’s novel Wintergirls, please click HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):