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Speak out, speak up

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Cover of Speak

Once again, in this bestseller, Laurie Halse Anderson hits readers hard with a slap of reality. The story was told so well and is so realistic that readers will be sucked into Melinda’s world and strong emotions and sympathy for her. In the story, Mel is the victim of sexual assault but tells no one about it, not even her parents or friends. She bears the burden alone throughout the book, and this transforms her and those around her.


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The characters in the book were very believable, though at times they were incredibly frustrating. Melinda’s parents were a big problem for Melinda. They were so self-centered that they had lost touch with their own daughter. Even in the first scene, the reader can see this disconnect: they communicate mostly through notes. This can also be seen when her father gets home from work and doesn’t even say “hello.” Mel turns up her music so he will know she is home, and that’s it. It is painfully evident that her parents don’t care, and sad much they fight with no regard to how it affects Mel.


Speak author Laurie Halse Anderson

Even when they are called in to discuss her grades and behavior, they see straight through her. Obviously she needed help at this point, and all they could splutter out was “What’s wrong with you?” “Do you think this is funny?” “I don’t know why she is doing this to us,” and other angry phrases guaranteed to make Mel clam up more. Maybe she would have spoken up if someone was willing to listen and understand rather than lecture. However, the characters here did exactly what they would have done had they been real people with the same personalities, so it was good that Anderson stuck with the characters she brought to life.

This book really explores what it would be like to be an outcast and someone who has been through extreme trauma. It was frustrating that Mel didn’t try harder or tell anyone sooner, and that her friends and peers treated her so poorly, but it all made sense for the situation she was in. Reading her story will be a good eye-opener to readers, and would bring their attention to the fact that there are probably some girls in their own schools who have experienced the same thing and chosen to deal with it the same way Melinda did.

Even in smaller cities such as Boise, many girls and women feel the need to hide behind a mask of shame and silence when they are taken advantage of. Accirding to the RAINN website, 60% of sexual assault crimes are left unreported. That means that six out of every ten, or sixty out of every one-hundred victims will suffer in silence. For more information and statistics, please visit the RAINN website.

For More Info: Visit Cynthia Letich Smith's blog, "Cynsations" on literature news and events

Next Up: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

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