BBW 2011 Read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

TitleSpeak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA fiction
ISBN: 9780374371524
Length: 198 pages
Published: 1999
Source: public library
Rating: 4.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: Every BBW, I think of this book. Not because I’ve already read it and loved it. But because I know it is a frequently challenged book which many of my reader friends have read and enjoyed. So I felt it’s finally time to read it.

Summary (from book jacket):

The ninth graders are hearded into the auditorium. We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chiz, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Goths, Shredders. I am clanless. I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn’t go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops–a major infraction in high-school society–so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either–there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can’t be silent–she must speak the truth.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. This is probably one of the most different “coming-of-age” stories. Not that Melinda finished growing up by the end of the story. But she definitely grew up because of her unfortunate circumstances. Melinda started off her freshman year of high school as a girl who had no friends and belonged nowhere. By the end of that year, she had learned to stand up for herself (in relation to a bad experience she had) and was much stronger. Oddly enough, she didn’t really end the year with any friends or a sense of belonging, as one might think. But she knew where she didn’t belong, and that was hiding in the janitor’s closet while at school.

I am assuming that the reason adults might challenge this book is the issue of rape that’s presented in this story. But, I don’t think that rape is an issue to ignore. It is regrettably something that actually happens. And I have to admit that I have read fiction that concerns rape, amongst other things, in a way that is much more lewd–Push by Sapphire, for example. I read Push earlier this year (on audiobook) and the language Sapphire used was so very crude and real. Anderson hardly even refers to rape directly in the book–rape actually came up probably 2-3 times in Speak. I actually think that reading and discussing both Push and Speak would be a really interesting idea. Syracuse and Harlem are both in New York, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the two books ends.

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