Thursday, 5 July 2012
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino seems like an ordinary teenager until she attends a party one night the summer before starting high school. She becomes known as "the kid that called the cops" and isolated by her peers. As we follow Melinda, she becomes more and more insular and full of complex emotions as the year goes on and she stops communicating with those around her. But what really happened at the party to have such a big impact on her?
I really wanted to love this book. I enjoyed reading it and think it is an important book in some regards, but unfortunately I just don't see it as the modern classic that others do. I'm going to set out my 'problems' with the book below, some are subjective to my reading experience and some are more objective. If you love this book, I'm sorry!
1. I already knew what was wrong with Melinda before reading. This meant that there was no emotional kick in the teeth for me when the reader finally finds out what happened to her. I applaud Laurie Halse Anderson to drawing attention to the issue and hope that teenagers reading the book learn more about how horrific an experience it could be. Having said that, I felt like the perpetrator was a stereotypical example and it would have been more realistic if he was Melinda's boyfriend rather than a random? (Trying to not spoil the book for anyone else).
2. I couldn't relate to Melinda's high school experience. I'm not American and the school environment Melinda describes was worlds away from my own experiences. I know it's subjective but it meant I wasn't transported back to my high school days, like I would have needed to be to really feel for Melinda and connect with her.
3. Some of the writing was too obvious. I liked that Anderson wrote about how the enormity of what had happened to Melinda literally stopped her from talking but at times it felt like this device was over-used. Particularly when Melinda gets sores on her lips and requires medical attention; it just felt like too much.
4. I didn't think the writing was especially great in general. The simplistic style was a good choice but it felt clunky and awkward. I much preferred the writing in her later book, Chains.
5. Melinda's parents - I understand they were busy and frustrated with her and each other, but I found it hard to believe they would do nothing for so long. As an adult this especially bothered me as absent parenting is something I've noticed a lot in YA. There are plenty of absent parents out there but sometimes it feels that writing them this way is just a convenience for the author.
I don't want to be too negative about the book as I enjoyed reading it and, as I said, it spotlights an important issue to a vulnerable group. It simply wasn't all that I had been hoping for.
First Published: 2001
Score: 3 out of 5