Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4.5 stars, actually, but I have to click on a whole star.
This is an awesome book! I go through stages where I read one or two young adult books that are so badly written that I start thinking I’m too old for YA books, that they are all trite and cliché and all have the same characters with the same issues, the same stock scenes, and the same ‘problems.’ And then I read a book like Speak.
I’ve noticed that some adult books deal with difficult situations and issues in a way that’s so graphic it makes me feel sick. But young adult books, the good ones anyway, deal with tough issues in a delicate way. Anderson leaves no doubt in the readers mind about what happened to Melinda, but she doesn’t shove it down your throat and make you gag. The ability to deal with disturbing situations without graphic detail is one of the things that makes YA literature so great. At least in the hands of a writer as talented as Anderson. The graphic violence in adult books sometimes is such a turn-off that it makes the scene comic. Leaving things mostly to the reader’s imagination can make the scene even more powerful than giving all the gory details.
I’d seen the movie Speak a while back, so I already knew going into the book what it was about. So I thought the mysteriousness over what happened to Melinda might get on my nerves. But Anderson is a good enough writer that it didn’t bother me more than a little. I did, however, think it would have been better if she’d let the reader know why Melinda was so screwed up a little earlier—maybe at the one-third mark instead of the two-thirds mark. The only other thing I didn’t like about the book was Melinda’s sudden decision to speak out. It just happened too fast and without a catalyst. I thought something should have happened to make her break her silence. Instead, she suddenly just thinks that it’s spring, and everything is coming to light, so she’ll do the same thing. I just don’t think teenagers pay that much attention to things like that—especially teenagers as screwed up as Melinda.
The most surprising thing about the book to me was the author’s ability to write humorously about such a dark issue. The book could have been a depressing story about a girl with no friends, full of guilt and going crazy inside her head. Instead, it managed to find humor while never making light of the situation. The author’s ability to make a reader laugh on one page and tear up on the next is truly a gift. If Melinda had whined about her situation (and she had every reason to), the book might have gotten tiresome. But she has such a strong, funny voice that you can’t help but love her. She never plays the victim, even though she was one.
This was an amazing read for me. It should be require reading for all teenagers, male and female.
View all my reviews