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By Laurie Halse Anderson

A=bh over 2
3.14 is pi
But I'd forgotten, if I ever knew,
What R's divided by
Though I knew once, I'd forgotten clean
What a girl must study to reach fifteen
How V is Volume and M's for Mass
And the hearts of the young are brittle as glass.
I had forgotten, and half with pride
Fifteen's no field of clover

Homework For Annabelle
By Phyllis McGinley

"We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash,
Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders.
I am clanless. I wasted the last week of August watching bad cartoons. I didn't go to the mall, the lake,
or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered hgh school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the
wrong attitude, And I don't have anyone to sit with.

I am an outcast" (4)

High school is a challenging time for many people, but for Melinda Sordino, high school is essentially Hell. After calling the police at a wild party over the summer, she begins her freshman year of High School hated by every student, abandoned by her best friends, labeled by her teachers, and given up on by her parents. No one knows Melinda's story, nor do they care--she has no one to tell her secret about what happened that warm, August night. She is alone.

Speak takes the reader on a journey from the poignant and honest perspective of Melinda herself--we are granted the ability to go with her to her classes and the lunchroom and witness first hand-what happens during her day, watching as she gets picked on by both teachers and students alike, all the while knowing her terrible secret. It is not until her first encounters with Mr. Freeman, her art teacher, that she begins to express herself. Through her artwork, Melinda tries desperately to express the feelings she has had bottled up inside the entire year.

Realistic and contemporary, Speak should be placed near the top of your reading priority list. It contains all the criteria of the YA genre: relevant to young adults, straightforward, simple, contemporary language and a main character struggling with and coming to terms with pertinent, serious issues.

Your students will relate to many of the concerns and situations that are depicted, and they will identify with the feelings and behaviors expressed by Melinda Sordino, the 15 year old protagonist. The typical teen experiences are all part of the story and the teenagers, as well as adult characters behave in realistic ways. Melinda encounters peer pressure, rejection, feelings of awkwardness, illusive friendships, and having to deal with disappointed teachers and angry parents.

But Speak is more than a story of teenage quirkiness and normal challenges. Laurie Anderson, the author of a number of other teen novels, does not stop with the typical, the expected. Instead she delves deeper and moves her readers into much more serious issues. In so doing she gives us a realistic glimpse into the young adult’s psyche; their deep, hidden, and sometimes very scary and unmanageable feelings.

Melinda has been a victim of rape, a devastating encounter which she has chosen not to share with anyone. It has had tremendous and on-going ramifications affecting her feelings of self worth, interests, relationships and her ability to think, reason and act.

In an attempt to hold herself together and live with her secrets, Melinda adopts some non conventional strategies, but she also displays many common coping methods frequently employed by teens: withdrawal, lying, skipping school and accepting the inaccurate labels of being a misfit, goof off and troublemaker.

At times it appears that her struggle is hopeless. Her parents, friends and most of her teachers are not there for her. However, Melinda proves to be a survivor. She eventually makes a stand, takes on her aggressor. She not only speaks, she screams and by so doing brings other hurting hearts out of their closets.

Speak is more than a good read. It draws our attention to a serious issue and forces us to consider the difficult and often overwhelming struggle faced by teens who are coping with sexual harassment from its “mildest” to most violent forms. Current data suggests that 44% of all rape victims in the U.S. are under 18 years old and that sexual assault remains one of the most unreported crimes.Sexual Assault Data

Speak can serve as a effective springboard to serious classroom discussions on sexual harassment and date rape, issues that our students need to be equipped to effectively respond to and deal with.

Although directed at the teen reader, this book also “speaks” loudly to teachers, reminding us that we continually (continuously) need to let students know that we care about THEM, and not just their grades and behavior. Normally, we see only what is on the surface, what our teenage students chose to let us be privy to; that is unless we can somehow really convince them that we are trustworthy and capable of understanding. Belligerent behavior along with black eyeliner, tattoos, orange spiked hair and pierced tongues conveniently hide the hurting, scared child as well as the budding writer, the creative spirit, and the emerging intellectual.

Speak has been translated into 17 different languages. A list of national and state awards are listed on the author’s homepage, which is a well maintained, comprehensive and interesting site containing a wealth of information. There are subsections on the author’s life, tips and encouragement for writers of children’s and teen books as well as teaching ideas. www.writerlady.com

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About the Author
Laurie Halse Anderson grew up in Syracuse, New York. As a teenager she reading science fiction and fantasy. As a senior in high school she was an exchange student in Denmark for sixteen months. Anderson attended a community college for two years before she transfered to Georgetown University and graduated in 1984. She started her writing career as a freelance journalist and eventually began writing books. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two teenage daughters. Speak was her first novel and it was nominated for the 1999 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Other Works by Laurie Halse Anderson:
external image prom.jpgProm
external image twisted.jpgTwisted
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external image 2001%2520Fever.jpgFever 1793

Other Resources
Sexual Harassment
Movie Review - This link takes you to a review of the movie that was based on the novel.

Lesson Plans for Speak
Viterbo.edu--Interesting, usable lesson plan aimed at helping students learn to recognize, define and respond appropriately to sexual harassment.
writerlady.com--A curriculum plan for the novel straight from the author herself
Web English Teacher - This site includes lesson plans for Speak and other novels by Anderson.

Check out this trailer created with pictures from the 2004 film starring Kristen Stewart!

A Wonderful WikiReview brought to you by: Betsy Bradley, Sarah Reaser, and Katie Cross.