06 June 2013

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published: 22 October 1999

Pages: 208 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, social issues, contemporary

Source: Own library


Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.

My Thoughts

Laurie Halse Anderson is an author that I hadn't really heard of until I started book blogging, but once I started noticing her name on lists of teen favourites and favourite issue books, I knew I had to try at least one of her books, and Speak was by far the one most often mentioned.  What better place to start with an author than their most beloved book.

Melinda as a character is very relatable, although not hugely memorable.  She finds herself ostracised by her classmates, and they are realistically high-school-cruel.  Written in 1999, Speak is actually very close in time to my own high school experience, back before mobile phones and Facebook, in a time when gossip was spread by lunchtime whispers and bathroom graffiti, and Halse Anderson nailed it perfectly.  What makes Speak so very readable is the realistic portrayal of high school life - cliques and bitchiness, cold-shoulders and indifferent parents and teachers and more of a focus on Melinda's school performance than her radical personality change.

For the vast majority of the book, Melinda is isolated from other students, teachers and her parents, and being inside her head for the majority of the book really makes it an intense read - her pain, disappointment and confusion are all very real, raw emotions that come through the pages.

I could have very easily read this book in one sitting - it was compelling, saddening, maddening and at times even frustrating - I wanted to literally reach through the pages and hug Melinda or punch one of her fickle, shallow former friends.

Despite being 14 years old, this book doesn't feel dated and the emotions, reactions and sitatuations feel incredibly realistic.  The only downside for me was that some of the deeper issues felt like they were a little glossed over, and although Melinda obviously felt the impact of her actions very deeply, it did feel a little too 'neat' of an ending.

Speak is a book that I would recommend to any Young Adult reader, and in fact to any young adult, as it does examine some serious issues and how jumping to conclusions about people can cause some serious hurt.


  1. This sounds interesting. I'm curious what caused her to report the party. I vaguely remember hearing about this book many years ago and even though it's been long I definitely remember the pre-texting/ social media days when everything went through the rumor mill instead of over the airwaves. Great review, I think I'll keep my eye out for a used copy of this one.

  2. I so loved this book. It was incredibly difficult to read but I love hard hitting books.

    Great review!

  3. Great review - I also read this year and really enjoyed its depth.

  4. Great review! I really loved this book. You should Wintergirls it's my favorite by her!



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