I did not enjoy high school. When I hear about those who had 'fun', I always wonder how they managed to avoid the angst that comes from bullying, academic pressure, or bad teachers. But some enjoy it. Maybe they had the steel to survive the bullshit. Everyone is different. Most kids were just trying to get by. I was one of them.
'Speak' is about one of those regular kids. In the summer before school starts Melinda gets assaulted by an older student at a party. She tells no one, and worse comes to worst she is also blamed for blowing the whistle on the party after the police arrive. So she starts high school being branded a snitch and her friends abandoning her. She has no one to tell the truth about why she called for help that night. She was raped.
As a reader I joined Melinda's odyssey through 9th grade. I have never experienced the horror of being raped, but the desolate pit that keeps growing in Melinda is something I do recognize. Like Melinda, I understood that after trauma happens, the past normalcy of your life is gone.
But there is some light that shines through. It happens for Melinda and it happened for me. I have to pause each time I read about her art class and the sweet relationship with her teacher. It makes me cry.
Trauma doesn't happen to everybody, and it shouldn't happen to someone so early. Melinda has to learn to 'speak' about what happens to her. She has to understand there are people who care and people who want to listen. That is the first step forward. And she makes it happen.