Laurie Halse Anderson – Speak (52 books challenge, 1/52)

Speak!

Every time I think of this book, I see it with an exclamation mark at the end. The Polish version (which I read) had one at the end, so now even if I’m thinking “in English” about it, it’s there. “Speak!”

It’s about Melinda Sordino, who broke the unwritten rule – she called the caps during a summer party, which caused the party to end and a lot of people to get in trouble because of underage drinking. Now, nobody speaks to her. She begins high school as the outcast, for her old friends won’t talk to her, and she herself won’t talk to anyone.

Nobody ever asked her why she called the caps. They just labelled her “a loser” and made fun of her. After a few years of being “best friends,” Melinda and Rachel (her ex-best friend) don’t ever talk to each other. Melinda isn’t able to tell Rachel what really happened until the very end, and Rachel doesn’t ask at all.

The novel is written in a form of a diary and is a great portrayal of trauma after being raped. Melinda falls deeper and deeper into her silence and there seems to be nobody who can pull her out of it. She expresses her feelings through art, under guidance of a great art teacher – my favorite character from the book. This novel is dark, depressing, amazing, and well-written in an honest, ironic voice of Melinda.

It gives the message – or even a few. The message that those who are silent can be screaming inside. That you can never know what another person is going through. That you should never judge without knowing all the details. That you should speak about your feelings, about your problems, about what’s bothering you – if you don’t, nobody will know. Nobody will get interested. Only a few will care, if anyone.

The novel hits very close to home. I did not have such traumatic experiences as Melinda, but I was also shy and quiet in high school, especially at the beginning. I was also accused of something and became kind of an outcast because of it. The worst part is, I am still unsure to this day what that was that I did. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop reading young adults books long after I’ve turned 18 and graduated? Maybe that’s why I liked the idea on which “Buffy” was supposedly based on – “high school as hell.”

For some people, it really is. You’d be surprised, how many.

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