Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

If you work with teenagers or like teenage literature, Speak is one of those books you probably know about, one of those books that has achieved almost mythological status because of how powerful it is. That’s the impression I had, at least, but I had never actually read it before. One thing I love about YA literature? I can often easily read a book in a day. After being stuck in (and never actually finishing) The Worst Hard Time for most of January, I was happy to kick start my February with Speak, and, in an unbelievable feat, it did in fact live up to the hype.

Speak is Melinda’s story. We know that there is something wrong with Melinda, something that has changed her life and alienated her old friends. But all she will tell us is that she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. We follow Melinda’s journey through the year as she learns how to speak the truth about what happened that night, first to herself, and then to others around her.

I liked this book because I liked Melinda. I liked her even when I wished that she would ask someone for help. I liked her when she found no value in herself, and I worried about her because I think there are girls like Melinda in every school in the country, girls who have stopped functioning for a variety of reasons. I liked watching the seeds of strength and bravery germinate in her. I liked seeing how art and gardening became her lifelines.

I think that anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in a school will find something to relate to here, and I highly recommend Speak for its honest treatment of some very difficult subjects.

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