Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson [Review]

It’d have been much more preferable to have read this book and written my review, in my own sweet time, but then some moron called Scroggins got on his soap-box to spew his bile, and I knew it was time to slip it off the bookshelves and just get it read.

Because, while I’m neither a teen nor a resident of Republic, and even though #speakingloudly is totally necessary, the best way to get back at these types has to do exactly what they are trying to stop. And that’s read.

So read I did.

I’ve made a point recently of trying to write my own synopsis as part of my reviews, but I think that’s probably a little redundant this week as most people will already know what this book is about, so I am just going to use the cover blurb.

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.

No one knows why she called the police, and she can’t get out the words to explain. So she retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence. 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. But, try as she might, it just won’t go away…

Now, to start the review the way I normally would have.

It was this review by Natasha at the Maw Books Blog that first brought Speak and Laurie Halse Anderson to my attention, and made it a book I knew I wanted to read, and subsequent mentions and reviews spotted elsewhere only cemented that thought.

I’m so glad I saw that initial review, as this was a wonderfully powerful read. Touching and painful as Melinda slowly sinks further into her depression, and the same again as she starts to climb out of it. It’s not a story with a feel good ending, but that is entirely the point, and why books that deal with difficult and hard issues are so important. And why choice needs to be there.

There’s a huge difference between, things being there for shock value or titillation, and things being there because they have to be, and any halfway intelligent person can spot the difference. Unless of course you choose to cherry pick s passages out of context, and not actually you know, read the book…

The thing is. The most shocking thing about the book, isn’t the snarky comments about the cheerleaders scoring ability, or even the rape scene (which is depicted with great care by Halse Anderson) it’s that Melinda didn’t feel able to speak up in the first place and the ‘world’ that allowed that to happen.

That’s what’s shocking. And heartbreaking. And distressing.

The fact that Melinda is such a likeable, sarcastic and at times funny, teenager, with an inner strength that she probably doesn’t realise, does nothing to alter that, only makes it more so.

Readers can relate to her, find their own strength in her, and if one person can find what the need to speak out then the book does it’s job (and it quite clearly does, as the video I’ll post at the end of this review,  featuring the author, reading a poem, inspired by letters she has received, quite clearly and movingly proves)

It may have been Natasha, that put this book firmly on my TBR pile, sorry Natasha, but my thanks must go to Mr Scroggins for making me read it.

Buy: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson from The Book Depository.

11 thoughts on “Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson [Review]

  • Pingback: Laurie Halse Anderson – Speak « Fyrefly's Book Blog

  • October 5 at 9:39 pm
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    I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I read this book some time ago and though it was so wonderful. It amazed me that anyone would say the things that Mr. Scroggins did about it. I’m thankful that so many have used that horrible situation as a springboard to find this (and many other) lovely books.

    • October 5 at 10:47 pm
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      Yeah, people like Mr Scroggins and his ilk, tend to just “cherry-pick” lines and sections, to suit their arguments and screw the context! 😡

  • September 26 at 10:20 pm
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    I read this book last year and thought it was a very powerful read. And you’re right, the rape scene is so brief, the most shocking aspect is her inability to communicate and how, as the reader, you feel that suffocating effect of silence.

    • September 28 at 7:32 pm
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      Suffocating is a good description.

  • September 25 at 4:50 am
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    I have stayed out of this debate because I have a hard time with Anderson’s writing… and, well, I didn’t like this book… That being said, I am all for the idea behind this post. My reasons for not liking it were personal and had nothing to do with the crazy things that Scroggins has been spewing. I am really happy that the controversy has lead to people reading this book, though. I totally disagree with book banning, but at the same time book banning gets people fired up and ready to fight… Then, the read the book… So, as long as the book banner loses, book banning (or challenging) has its benefits… Is this making me sound smart or stupid? lol

  • September 25 at 1:58 am
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    The best part of someone like Scroggins saying something like he did is all the people that then will read the book! 🙂

    Great post, Darren!

  • September 24 at 6:15 pm
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    Nice review! I am going to re-read Speak (I read it a few years ago for a lit class, and loved it). I think it’s interesting that Mr. Scroggins now not only has drawn a lot of attention to the book, but that so many people are grabbing it and reading it (yay!).

  • September 24 at 4:06 am
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    I wasn’t planning to read this book anytime soon, either, but this issue brought it up. Way to call attention to a book that he wants to pull out of the shelves, huh.

    I just finished reading this book last night, too, and I agree: it’s a powerful, heartbreaking yet hopeful read. It was hard to read how Melinda would rather just shut up and stay in her own world because she felt people won’t care or she felt that she won’t be able to say the right thing, but I liked how she found her way out of it.

    And those rape scenes that Scroggins were pointing to? It wasn’t even explicit. If I remember correctly, Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen had more description with how the main character was raped…and what about Lovely Bones? *shakes head*

  • September 23 at 11:02 pm
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    Yes, that idiot’s ravings down there have me looking for the book, too. Last couple of trips to the store, I’ve kept my eye out for it in the book section, but no one but B&N seems to carry it. Hey, at least it’s a sales boost.

    But to be honest, I never would have discovered Harry Potter had not that dumb lady down in Georgia made the news trying to ban it from her local school district.

    I make it a policy to read every book someone tries to ban. And buy several copies to give to friends and family just for good measure. I’m just bitchy that way. ;P

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