Name of Book: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Puffin Books
Audience: Ages 13-17. A high school girl could easily relate to this story, whether they themselves have suffered some emotional trauma or if they want to be a good listener for a friend in need.
Summary: Being “popular” was no longer a priority for Melinda after peer pressure led to victimization and harassment. In an attempt to find justice, she not only lost her friends, but also her self worth. Speaking out was the only way to escape the internal prison she was trapped in.
The story centers on Melinda, who narrates through a first person dialogue. She struggles to find her way back from the traumatic event that happened right before her freshman year. From the inside, out, she feels like everything is totally wrong. Her dreams of making fond memories in high school turned into a series of nightmares. Unable to speak about the truth and afraid of making matters worse, her friends cannot understand her silence and sadness. Anyone, but especially a young woman, who has experienced being the outsider will be captivated by the way she describes her emotions.
Literary elements at work in the story: Realistic Contemporary Fiction
This book will especially help teenage girls identify with the emotional problem and fears that many face during their youth. Although the underlying issue is of a sexual nature, the plot concentrates on the hurtful realities of fleeting friendships and “holidays gone wrong” as one teacher quotes while trying to reach out.
This book involves all the things that teenagers hear about or are directly involved with – popularity, pep rallies, parties, sex and drugs.
The setting is mostly in a high school with flashbacks of the house where an end of summer party occurred.
Theological Conversation: Forgiveness comes at a very high price for adolescents who are trying to identify with themselves, let alone God. It is difficult to find faith in God when you feel unwanted and dislike who you are.
Although Melinda comes from a Christian based household, she and her family could benefit greatly from the positive social interaction that a church environment offers. Being part of a faith community promotes caring relationships that in turn brings family members closer together.
Scripture: Matthew 6:14-15 (forgiveness); Deuteronomy 12:7 (family blessings and support)
Faith Talk Questions:
- How would the story be different if each traumatic or emotional issue pointed toward Melinda’s faith in God? Her firneds’ faith in God? Her family’s faith in God?
- After the damage is done, why does it matter if a crime is reported or not?
- Why is it so difficult for Melinda to forgive her friends?
- Why would anyone want to forgive their perpetrator?
- What kind of caring support can a teenager find at church?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Gina Craft.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., High School Students, Middle Schoolers, Realistic Fiction Tagged: | crime, friends, relationships, silence, victim