Title of Book: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

GoodReads Rating: 3.99


This novel follows a year in the life of, specifically the internal conflict of, a 9th-grade rape victim. The book does not shy away from the difficult emotions the victim, Melinda, struggles with or her changes in behavior. For example, the author details her struggles with passing her classes, making friends, her relationship with her parents, but also highlights her one and only outlet – art class.

APA Reference of Book:

Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. New York, NY: Puffin.

My Impressions: 

I found this novel to be a powerful read because it addresses a difficult topic with sensitivity. The rape scene itself is rather vague compared to other young adult books published today. The reader does not need graphic details because we have an imagination. Furthermore, I think this book is an excellent example of realistic fiction because at the end of the book, Melinda is learning to find her voice again, stand up for herself, and have hope for her own future. Although it is an emotionally difficult book to read, by the end, the reader has hope too, which is crucial.

Professional Review:

Gr 8 Up –This powerful novel deals with a difficult yet important topic-rape. Melinda is just starting high school. It should be one of the greatest times in her life, but instead of enjoying herself, she is an outcast. She has been marked as the girl who called the police to break up the big end-of-the-summer party, and all the kids are angry at her. Even her closest friends have pulled away. No one knows why she made the call, and even Melinda can’t really articulate what happened. As the school year goes on, her grades plummet and she withdraws into herself to the point that she’s barely speaking. Her only refuge is her art class, where she learns to find ways to express some of her feelings. As her freshman year comes to an end, Melinda finally comes to terms with what happened to her-she was raped at that party by an upperclassman who is still taunting her at school. When he tries again, she finds her voice, and her classmates realize the truth. The healing process will take time, but Melinda no longer has to deal with it alone. Anderson expresses the emotions and the struggles of teenagers perfectly. Melinda’s pain is palpable, and readers will totally empathize with her. This is a compelling book, with sharp, crisp writing that draws readers in, engulfing them in the story.

Sherman, D. (1999). Grades 5 & up: Fiction. School Library Journal, 45(10), 144.

Library Uses:

This book should be included in a list of books for reluctant readers. At 208 pages, it is brief compared to other young adult books, which is an attractive feature for reluctant readers. In addition, it addresses a difficult topic which, unfortunately, is relatable to many teen readers. Even if they have not had the experience the protagonist had, chances are they know someone who has and this book might help them better understand that person’s internal conflict.