Published on September 30th, 2014 | by Hayley



In Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a teenage girl slowly recedes further into herself, refusing to speak after suffering a terrible trauma at the end of summer. Powerful and evocative Speak perfectly explores a dark theme with great understanding and respect.

At an end of summer party, just before starting high school, Melinda Sordino suffers a traumatic incident. Shocked and scared, Melinda dials 911 only to find herself unable to speak. When the police arrive, breaking up the party, Melinda’s peers see her as nothing but a narc, completely unaware of the trauma she experienced.

By the time Melinda begins grade nine she finds herself a social outcast, ditched by her friends, including her best friend Rachel, Melinda slowly recedes into herself, becoming a selective mute. Melinda’s refusal to speak has her pegged as a “weirdo” by her classmates, and a trouble-making, attention seeker by teachers. Her parents, unaware of their daughters secret pain find themselves at a loss about what to do, resulting in anger and dysfunction.

Overtime it is gradually revealed that Melinda was attacked, making matters worse her attacker goes to school with her. As Melinda navigates coming to terms with the abuse she suffered at the hands of a boy, now dating her former best friend, she realizes that she needs to find her voice to ensure her friends safety. But speaking up after so long isn’t easy.

Laurie Halse Anderson is best known for writing books that take on serious issues teens often face and she does so with an authoritative voice that is never condescending or belittling. One of the best aspects of Speak is the way Melinda’s trauma is explored – quietly, gently – there is no preach, just a stark exploration of a young girl learning to find her voice after suffering a serious violation.

Melinda’s only peace comes from hiding in a janitors closet – one she decorates to make herself more comfortable, and at the hands of an art teacher who’s attempts to draw her out through a final class project, unwittingly help Melinda.

As the book progresses themes of isolation, loneliness and bullying are artful explored through the use of simple language, and Melinda’s strong, well-rounded inner voice.

It’s no wonder Speak has become a classic in YA literature. And while it has been heralded by many critics and readers alike (including yours truly) it is also one of the most hotly contested books out there. This is a story that deals with a real and very prevalent issue but it does so beautifully and is definitely worth reading.

Why You’ll Love It
Melinda’s inner voice is fascinating, despite all the awful things she is dealing with, author Laurie Halse Anderson makes her main character accessible and likeable. Plus, she explores a major issue with class and dignity.

Choice Quote: “You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”

More books by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Speak  is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (Macmillan Publishers)

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About the Author

Hayley Kelman is a writer, blogger and all around social media enthusiast living in Toronto. She currently acts as Social Media coordinator for the original, Canadian web series Ruby Skye P.I. (and loves every minute of it.)

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