Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22, 1999
Genres: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary
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I really, really don’t want to be this person.
Books like these are important because of the issues they address and the messages they send about these issues. In my mind, we can never have enough books to spread awareness about certain social issues. And we need more like this one–more that encourage talking about what happened, standing up, being courageous.
But just because the messages in these books are good doesn’t mean the books themselves are good books. In a way, this book is one of them.
It’s not that Speak is a bad book–it’s just an unremarkable one. And I think a lot of that has to do with my inability to connect with this book.
Believe me, I’m upset that I couldn’t. The issues discussed here are so, so important. But the book never resonated with me on a personal level, and I think that’s because I just couldn’t connect with Melinda.
Maybe it’s because of where she’s from, her school’s environment, and what happened to her (no spoilers here), but I found Melinda way too cynical and judgmental to be a believable freshman, and the “unique,” Book Thief-esque format only enhanced this for me. I wanted very, very much to sympathize with her, but I ended up getting frustrated with her instead. She redeemed herself a bit in the end, but overall I felt Melinda was more a vector of Halse Anderson’s message than an actual person.
But again, this is my personal opinion. If you decide to read Speak, you might find that it speaks to you (pun sort of intended) in a way that it didn’t to me. I would recommending reading if only in the name of increasing awareness of the issues it discusses. However, to paraphrase a friend, while I appreciate this book and its messages, I unfortunately did not enjoy it or connect with it.