This year is starting with a big bang with and excellent five-star YA novel. I finally chose one that is living up to my expectations and isn’t a long puffed up series. The story is about Melinda Sordino. She’s starting her first year of high school and no one is speaking to her, including her best friends. An incident from summer has plunged her into silence and it seems she is doomed to speak no more. Even though she is silent, she is screaming inside. It’s just nobody hears her, not her parents or her friends. Speak took me back to high school and made think of those days when you only seemed to befriend those that were just like oneself. Clicks were the way students got from one year to another. You had to fit in and fit in is what most students do or at least attempt to. However, there are those who are total outcasts for one reason or another. Melinda is not really an outcast. She just feels like one and is perceived as one in her surroundings. She feels as if she’s disappearing, crumbling like an abandoned home.
Speak takes us on Melinda’s journey to express her pain and not speaking is the way she survives, literally hanging off the edge of a cliff, and hoping to be caught by a suspended net below if she falls, which doesn’t seem to come. In spite of her pain, she is very lucid about the people and the things happening around her. Her descriptions are blunt but absolutely correct. As a reader you’ll love her, want to protect her, and root for her right from the start to the end.
The writing in this novel is clever, witty, and cutting at times. The sentence structure is short, direct, very humorous and sometimes makes you want to shed a tear. The chapters are never longer than about 3 to 3,5 pages and the shortest ones are about half a page. At no point will this book bore you. Actually you could read it in one sitting because it’s not very long.
At the beginning of the book Laurie Halse Anderson writes a letter to her friends. She says, “Speak is the book I wasn’t going to write. Why would I want to revisit the agonies of adolescence? Wasn’t that the point of surviving to adulthood—-so I could block out the traumas of being a teenager?…..So I tried. I wrote the book. I never thought anyone would publish it. I never dreamed it would earn any awards. I never imagined it would be taught in schools,…This has all been an unexpected, remarkable ride.” (Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak) This is a really wonderful book and everybody should read it. It will make you think. It will make you see. It will make you cry, but most of all it will make you listen.
Laurie Halse Anderson is an American author known for writing about difficult topics like dysfunctional families, body image, rape, etc. She tackles these topics originally and honestly. She writes primarily for young adults and children. Her first novel Speak was published in 1999 and led her to win the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults selection, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize,the Printz Honor Book Award, and a National Book Award nomination among others. Some of the other young adult novels she has written areCatalyst, Prom, Twisted and Chains. Her first children’s novel, Ndito Runs, was published in 1996. Turkey Pox, No Time for Mother’s Day, The Big Cheese of Third Street and many others have followed. I’m definitely going to try to read some of her other YA novels because she really is a brilliant writer who knows how to capture the emotions of a situation. Great read!!