Book Review | “Speak”

Review By
Francene DePrez

Melinda Sordino is an outcast as she begins her first morning of high school. She has seven new notebooks, a skirt she hates and a stomachache. I could relate to Melinda’s experiences entering high school. I spent many years in the same home in Portland, Oregon but each year the school district changed boundary lines so I went to four different grade schools.

By the time I got to high school, I didn’t have any close childhood friends. Melinda doesn’t have any friends for a very different reason – she busted up an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so none of her old friends will talk to her any more. Even people she doesn’t know have heard about the party and won’t speak to her.

This is a very moving book and I recommend it to all high school freshman. Girls will enjoy it more than boys. It is funny and sad and tells the tale of being an outcast and how

she wins her friends back. Parents of freshmen would also benefit from reading the book.

There is something that Melinda doesn’t want to think about and it affects her relationship with her parents, teachers and other students at school. Something happened at the party “that, if she admitted it and let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens”.

Finally, Melinda does tell her used-to-be best friend what happened to prevent the same thing from happening to her. She finds out the same thing happened to other girls. When the word gets out, it changes everyone’s view of her – helping her win back her friends, and make new ones.

Even though this book was written in 1999, it is a rare contemporary classic. This is a Platinum Edition which identifies books that are timeless stories. I am anxious to read other books in this series.

The Horn Book gave it a starred review and said “An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness. Speak will hold readers from the first word to the last”. This is exactly what I think of the book.
Publishers Weekly also gave the book a starred review. “A stunning first novel…Anderson infuses the narrative with a wit that sustains the heroine through her pain and holds readers’ empathy. Melinda’s hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired”.

The author explains what she learned from readers’ reactions to the book: “Today’s teens have to cope with massive amounts of stress and conflict. Way too many of them understand the pain of not feeling like they can speak up. This book reflects their experience and offers them hope.”

After reading this book, I will be handing it to my granddaughter, Hannah Wales, as she is a freshman at Jefferson High School. Please be sure to visit the Jefferson Carnegie Library to reserve this book for you or your children. They have a lot of books to choose from in the Young Adult section and Debbie or Peter will be happy to point them out to you.

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