Melinda Sordino has a shameful secret that has changed her life. In one stroke, she lost her friends, her interests, and her sense of security. Going back to school after the fateful party when she called the cops is difficult. Melinda hardly speaks to anyone, not even her parents, and everyone in school judges her except a new girl that Melinda doesn’t even like all that much. Telling the truth about that night takes courage, and for that Melinda knows she will eventually have to speak.
This book was so affecting. It’s fairly easy to figure out what happened to Melinda, but that doesn’t make its impact any less heartbreaking. I’m only six years removed from high school and this book brought back just how painfully mean teenagers are to one another. Melinda’s friends disdain her simply because it isn’t cool to be seen with her anymore, not offering even the smallest kindnesses to her as a fellow human being. And her encounters with one person in particular made me very scared for her. Through it all, though, she retains a sardonic humor which made me hope that she would be okay, and see why people were her friends in the first place. I genuinely liked her, so when people reject her over and over I really hurt for her.
Something else I really liked about this YA novel was that Melinda’s parents were present. I didn’t know why they didn’t ask more often about why she didn’t speak to them, but they did at least notice her and had their place in her life. I feel like a lot of YA titles simply skip over parents and it was nice that Melinda’s actually existed.
I also enjoyed Anderson’s writing; I hadn’t read any books by her, but this one has persuaded me that I should get to more of them. The narrative covers an entire school year and since it’s just 200 pages, some time is skipped, but I never felt like I was missing anything. It all flowed naturally. The writing was occasionally choppy but fit well since we were in Melinda’s head.
I thought Speak was a great read. It brings to mind the difficulty many teens – and even older women – have when they are targeted like this. My heart broke for Melinda and I suspect yours will too.
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