Farrar Straus Giroux: NY, 1999.
1999 National Book Award
2000 Printz Honor Book
Speak is an intense and real experience. Melinda's art class, allowing her a healing outlet of self-expression and personal growth, lends an artistic style to an otherwise direct and painful story.
Much of Melinda's high school freshman year is spent grieving. She starts the year with a reputation. She won't be allowed in any social groups, because of her faux pas of calling the police at a summer party. Worse, her friends are splintered, and her best friend won't speak to her. She withdraws into herself, because she cannot speak about IT, the event, and she is terrified of IT, the boy who attacked her. Art class and her retreat, a forgotten janitor's closet, are her two saviors. Living inside of her head is making her crazy. She needs to learn to speak, to unburden herself, to enlighten friends and family, and to stand up for herself. After such trauma, time is necessary to heal, and Melinda is perceived as a freak and delinquent until she is ready to live her life again. The catalyst is knowing that her ex-friend may be in danger, and she cannot allow that to happen without speaking.
There is much more to the story than the subject of rape. That story isn't told until the end. Leading up to it is Melinda's deeply emotional high school and family experience. You want to take her hand and lead her in reconciling her life. You want to nudge her parents and ex-friends into dragging the story out of this obviously suffering girl.
I balled through much of the book. I have been a victim myself, so it is highly personal and brings back painful memories. It is a subject that needs to be read about and discussed. IT happens to far too many girls and young women, and I believe that the experience stays with the them for life. 20 years later, I still find books like this cathartic, though terribly emotional. And do boys read these books? I haven't a clue. If they did, maybe men and women would have more understanding between them. But it is difficult to broach the subject. Both parties probably want to run and hide.
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