Melinda is starting high school an outcast, rejected by her friends and the rest of the school for calling the cops at a summer party. With surprising humor and insight, she navigates the halls and grows increasingly isolated, retreating into herself and speaking less and less.
She finds solace and purpose in her year-long project for art class, which helps her come to terms with what happened to her at that party. When she realizes her former friend is in danger, she must find her voice again and speak up for both herself and others.
Published in 1999 but particularly timely in this age of #MeToo, Speak is a must-read for teen girls and women still working to find their own voices, and for boys and men seeking a greater understanding of how sexual assault and harassment actually affect women.
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“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.