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Speak: A Book Review by the Father of a Teenage Daughter

Updated on December 1, 2014

Speak: by Laurie Halse Anderson

A conscientious teacher at our local high school asked me to read Speak before she introduced the novel to her freshman / sophomore English classes, knowing that our Special Needs daughter attends one of the classes. She was concerned positioning the content in a manner that our daughter could comprehend, and she asked us as parents, if we wanted our daughter to participate in the class discussions. She gave me a copy of the book several weeks before she was planning to cover the material in class.

After reading Speak, I was absolutely certain that I wanted my daughter to participate in the classroom discussions. The book was above her level of reading comprehension, but she clearly understood the topic. And with a little guidance, she completely understood the message.

Talking about rape in a high school classroom environment can be tricky. In my opinion, it is also necessary.

Speak is a novel that every young adult should read. Their parents should read it too.

Image Credit: Stock Photo

From the Back Cover of "Speak"

by Laurie Halse Anderson

The kids behind me laugh so loud that I know they're talking about me. I can't help myself. I turn around. It's Rachel, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing clothes that most definitely did not come from the EastSide Mall. Rachel Bruin, my ex-best friend. She stares at something above my left ear. Words climb up my throat. This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn't make fun of my bedroom. If there is anyone in the entire galaxy that I am dying to tell what really happened, it's Rachel. My throat burns.

Her eyes meet mine for a second. "I hate you," she mouths silently.

Quoted Text from "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak Movie Poster
Speak Movie Poster

Speak: A Book Review by the Father of a Teenage Daughter

Speak is told through the eyes of Melinda Sordino, a young girl who is about to start another year of high school. But something terrible happens to her at the big End of Summer party, something so horrific that she can barely comprehend her own pain. Without fully understanding her actions, she calls the police who arrive on the scene and break up the party. Instantly, Melinda becomes an outcast, hated by her peers.

Unable to talk about that night, Melinda's voice withdraws as the school year progresses and the holidays pass. Eyes looking down, her responses become mostly shrugs and nods. All along the way, through her narratives filled with sarcasm, symbolism and edgy humor, she gives us hints about "IT", and what happened on that terrible night.

Melinda's truth comes out slowly through her narrative as she paints a gritty, yet witty and insightful portrait of her parents, teachers and the social hierarchy of high school clans: the Jocks and the Cheerleaders, the Country Clubbers, Big Hair Chix, Suffering Artist, Goths, Shredders and others.

Since that night at the big End of Summer party when she called the police, Melinda is a clan-less social outcast. But it is not until her attacker starts dating her ex-friend Rachel, that we learn the truth -- and the depth of Melinda's inner strength.

You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.

Speak: 1st Edition Book Cover
Speak: 1st Edition Book Cover

No one should ever have to deal with the personal violation, anger and inner pain that haunts Melinda, driving her deeper into her own personal isolation. As she struggles through the daily interactions with her peers and the authority figures in her life, it is easy to empathize with her, to see her world the way she does, to laugh and to cry with her, to relive some of the past moments from our own high school days -- and perhaps to better understand some of the challenges that our kids deal with today.

Don't let the reading level fool you: Speak is a story of pain, inner strength, recovery and growth. Seen through the eyes of Melinda, a young girl in her first year of high school where every day is a lonely and personal struggle to deal with her memories of a horrific attack. She keeps her secret to herself, fearful to share the truth. Shunned by her former friends, Melinda retreats into her world of silence.

Speak should be required reading for every high school student, parent, teacher and anyone who interacts with teenagers. There may be a silent outcast in our life who needs our understanding. And our help.


Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading Level: Young Adult

Published: 1999 by the Penguin Group

ISBN: 0312674392

Have You Read "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson?

Have You Read "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson?

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Speak is a New York Times Best Seller, and has won numerous literary awards including the prestigious Golden Kite Award and American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults.

Speak is also on the list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books

Censorship In Schools

Should teachers use books like "Speak" in the public school classroom?

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    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Thank you for making me aware of this book (Speak). Extremely important issue. I appreciate the teacher who approached you about this book. That's the kind of teacher I always sought for my educational teams.