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Val's BookBlog


Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

I did not enjoy high school. When I hear about those who had 'fun', I always wonder how they managed to avoid bullying, lousy teachers, academic pressure, or the general angst adolescence brings.  But some enjoy it. Maybe they had the steel to survive the bullshit. Everyone is different. Most kids were just trying to get by. Like I was.


'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 that night. She had been 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. When trauma happens, the long days ahead become about survival. The past normalcy of your life is one you don't recognize anymore. 


The absurdity of high school is more enunciated to Melinda now. Like her I had flaky 'friends' who disappeared when cooler people came around, bullies who shoved you in the hallway, dumb football coaches as teachers, and rigorous courses catering to standardized testing.


But there is some light that shines through. It happens for Melinda and it happened for me. Her art class and the sweet relationship with her art teacher makes me emotional each time I read it.


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.