Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson



Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson ISBN: 978-0312674397, Square Fish; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)

Plot Summary:

Speak relates the story of a young, Melinda Sordino, who was raped while drunk at a party. Melinda dials 911 but then does not say anything. The police bust the party up and Melinda is forced to start her freshman year at high school as an outcast. Unable to tell anyone about what happened to her, she withdraws within herself. Her parents and teachers worry that she is not talking, but assume that she is just trying to get attention. It is not until her former best friend is in danger that Melinda finds the courage to speak.

Critical Evaluation: 

In Speak, Laurie Anderson does an excellent job of getting inside the head of a fourteen year old rape victim. On the outside, Melinda rarely says anything, but on the inside, Melinda is busy reliving the event. The fact that Melinda was drunk at the time that the rape occurred makes the rape more difficult to bear, as she must wonder if she is at all to blame. Melinda’s internal dialogue augments her actions, giving the reader the reason for her actions while other characters within the novel suppose that she is just seeking attention or is just plain creepy. Anderson is also deft at recreating the realities of high school life that include friendships of convenience, that is, friendships that exist merely so that a student does not have to be seen to be alone. Heather’s swift attachment to Melinda and her just as swift discarding of their “friendship” when she finds a better clique to join has the painful ring of truth that many teens will understand.

Information about the author:

Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author of books for kids of all ages–including Fever 1793ChainsTwisted, and many others. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Anderson was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”
Anderson was born in Potsdam, New York in 1961. Growing up, she loved reading and listening to family stories. She graduated from Georgetown University in 1984. Before becoming a full-time writer, she was freelance journalist, and then worked part-time at a bookstore to earn money while working on her fiction. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes.


Reader’s Annotation:

Will Grayson and Will Grayson are two completely different boys. Will Grayson has friends, is college bound and does his best to 1. Shut up. 2. Don’t care too much. Will Grayson has no friends that he cares about and is fighting a constant battle to keep from killing himself. They are about to meet on one crazy night that will change both their lives.


Realistic Fiction. 

Curriculum Ties:


Booktalking Ideas:

Can you imagine how it would be if something really bad happened to you but you were unable to talk about it.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Sexual abuse.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

This book was a national award book finalist.


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