Thursday, 5 August 2010

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Dear Blog,
Summary (from Goodreads): Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.

Review: Before I go onto my review, I have to just write a few pointless, shallow sentences about the cover, so skip foward to the next : Even though I read the UK edition, I much prefer the US of A cover, which is pictured, just because it's prettier and, I think, more relevant to the book, e.g there's a tree on the front and the girl on the cover's mouth isn't pictured (because, well, she chooses not to speak).   Also, I think the font and size of the word "Speak" on the American cover  are more symbolistic (is that a real word?) of the whole speaking thing.  The title on the British cover is in VERY BIG CAPITAL LETTERS and the word looks more like a demand than, well, a lack therof.  Perhaps I analyse covers too deeply.

Even though she had been through some pretty terrible stuff, I really struggled to like Melinda, especially at the beginning. I know there was some big terrible incident that occured before she started high school (which actually wasn't that she called the police, though that sort of had something to do with it) which was the cause for the reason she was so withdrawn and emo, but even so I struggled to like her, even after The Event which made the whole school hate her was revealed. 
Despite the fact that I wasn't too keen on Melinda throughout much of the book, it was a completely compelling read that sucked me in and kept me turning the pages.  I guess I just wanted, above all, to find out if she would eventually speak.  She did eventually make herself heard, but for the preceding 225 pages or so her total word count for the book is about 40 (I didn't actually count, but if somebody could provide me with some rough numbers, that would be great).  Anyway, it was a relatively easy read, easily devoured in one sitting, but the subject matter, which I won't reveal, and the emo-ness made it difficult to read at the same time.   

So even though I wasn't Melinda's biggest fan, I disliked the people who disliked her.  Heather From Ohio, Mr. Neck, her parents, Rachel/Rachelle all made me slightly angry in the way that they treated Melinda.  Especially her parents.  I wanted to scream, "wake up, wake up! your daughter needs you!!"  But I guess because she never spoke, they never really listened.  I particularly didn't get it when Melinda cuts herself (with a paperclip? a coathanger?  I forget), and all that her mother says is something along the lines of, "you really don't need to."  So by the end of the book, I guess I really was rooting for her and was happy when she spoke up for herself.

This isn't the first Laurie Halse Anderson book that I've read, actually. I read Chains back in February and now having read Speak, I'm pretty impressed at how she can switch from the story of  a 20th (seeing as this was first published in 1999) century girl in a typical (and, undoubtedly, clich├ęd) high school to a young black slave at the height of the revolutionary war, is pretty impressive.  Admittedly, I'm not big on the former, because I've been home educated since I was eight and I really can't relate. However, it's hard to find any contemporary novels with home-eddie protagonists (if you can name me some which don't involve them returning to the mainstream education system, I love you), so I read them anyway.  Anyway, that's aside from the subject. What I mean is, this ability to skip over 200 years back and forth from the past to the present is, well, clever.  Speak is certainly very gritty and doesn't hide from dark stuff.

I think the writing style itself really adds to the stark, empty nature of the story.  It's broken up into little vignettes, with dialogue being narrated like a script in a play, and when Melinda says nothing it's just written as "Me:      ", the Me being followed by emptiness to indicate nothing being said.   The book is divided into the four marking periods of the school year, which is interesting because you can see her grades drop as time goes by.   Alas, at the end of the fourth marking period, her grades aren't actually shown so you can't tell what became of them at the end of the year. Oh well.  You would hope that eventually they would rise again.

In three words: depressing but compelling. 

Recommended for: teenagers who don't mind the overall emo-ness. 
Rating: 4

4 comments:

  1. Hello! I am actually visiting via the blog hop! But I saw your review on Speak and just HAD to read your thoughts on the book! I read this book when I was in 8th grade. It's actually what I remember about my 8th grade English class/teacher the most. It was such a GREAT Book! I am actually thinking about reading it again, just because I enjoyed it so much! Great review and blog! Feel free to hop on over to mine!

    Stephany @ http://stephanysbookreviews.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson stars Melinda Sordino, a confused fifteen-year-old girl who wants nothing more but to be understood and safe from the judging eyes of the high school student body. Melinda, shunned by the familiar faces of middle school, is forced to face the horrors of high school which include an evil social studies teacher, hateful ex-friends, a creepy senior referred to as IT, and a scary language arts teacher known as the Hairwoman, who most likely had a hairdresser who was very, very angry at her. Poor Melinda faces an ordeal in the summer that leaves her scared, low on self-esteem, and silent. She only speaks to her parents and Heather, a so-called friend that may not be all that Melinda expects her to be. The book is a quicker read but reveals a lot about teenage society and minds - and what high school pressures are really all about.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson stars Melinda Sordino, a confused fifteen-year-old girl who wants nothing more but to be understood and safe from the judging eyes of the high school student body. Melinda, shunned by the familiar faces of middle school, is forced to face the horrors of high school which include an evil social studies teacher, hateful ex-friends, a creepy senior referred to as IT, and a scary language arts teacher known as the Hairwoman, who most likely had a hairdresser who was very, very angry at her. Poor Melinda faces an ordeal in the summer that leaves her scared, low on self-esteem, and silent. She only speaks to her parents and Heather, a so-called friend that may not be all that Melinda expects her to be. The book is a quicker read but reveals a lot about teenage society and minds - and what high school pressures are really all about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You have a nice review! Here's mine: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2012/07/speak-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html Have a nice day!

    ReplyDelete

Leave a comment if you like. Don't be shy- I don't bite.