Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published in 1999

photo taken from google images
photo taken from google images

"The first ten lies they tell you in high school
1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have enough time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with your needs in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly." (6)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson reveals the trials and tribulations that high school students are faced with. It shows readers the impact that peer pressure has on a teenager and the importance of having friends. By giving insight into the life of a young girl, Melinda, the reader is able to see how difficult life can actually be. Anderson does an amazing job of showing the troubles Melinda deals with both within herself and with her peers at school.

“I am Outcast,” is what Melinda says her first day back at school after what was probably the worst summer of her life (4). Her whole life was altered after one wild party at the end of the summer with her ex-best friend. This was the night that changed everything. Since then, she has had no friends, no life, is shut out by her parents and has no voice. She was a prisoner within her own body and could not speak up. "You don't understand, my headvoice answers. Too bad she can't hear it" (28).

The novel goes on to show both the internal and external struggles Melinda faces each day. She is dying inside and cannot find a way to speak up and tell anyone, even when she is screaming and tearing herself up inside. "I don't want to be cool. I want to grab her by the neck and shake her and scream at her to stop treating me like dirt. She didn't even bother to find out the truth - what kind of friend is that" (21)?

Her entire school year goes on much the same, beating herself up and trying to hide what really happened that night. Trying to make it just go away. But, it doesn't go away. "I see IT in the hallway. IT goes to Merryweather. IT is walking with Aubrey Cheerleader. IT is my nightmare and I can't wake up. IT sees me. IT smiles and winks" (45-46). This is the "it" she wants to go away, the it she wants to forget. But how?

As the school year passes by, Melinda finds herself with the help of her art teacher and her artwork. By the end of the year, while she has not forgotten what happened that horrible night, she is able to take a step forward. "The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up. (198).

Teaching Speak in the classroom will allow teachers to show students the kinds of peer pressure others may face. In addition, the difficult family life their peers may have. By teaching Speak, student's eyes will be opened to the issues they or their peers face, along with problems they themselves may be causing.

(the links above will help with ways to teach Speak in your classroom)

About the Author:
picture from writerlady.com
picture from writerlady.com

Laurie Halse Anderson, was born October 23, 1961 in Northern New York. She has enjoyed writing since she was in second grade, when her teacher taught her the haiku, she never thought she'd grow up to be a writer though. She also reads all the time. As a child, she enjoyed historical fiction, but as she became a teenager she began liking science fiction and fanasy. As a senior in high school, she spent thirteen months as an exchange student in Denmark. After graduating from Georgetown University in 1984, she got married to Greg Anderson and had two children. After seeing writing as only a hobby for so many years, she began to take it more seriously and after many rejection letters, finally had her first book, Ndito Runs, published in 1996. Speak which was published in 1999, won many awards. It was a National Book award finalist, a Printz Honor book, among many others.

intro to melinda.mp3

(Click a cover for more information)

catalyst.jpgBig-Cheese.jpg fever.jpgndtioruns.gif mothers.gifprom.jpgSpeak.jpgsaudi_arabia.jpgthank_you.jpgturkeypox.jpg twisted.jpg
Wild At Heart

  1. Fight for Life: Maggie
  2. Homeless: Sunita
  3. Trickster: David
  4. Manatee Blues: Brenna
  5. Say Good-Bye: Zoe
  6. Storm Rescue: Sunita
  7. Teacher's Pet: Maggie
  8. Trapped: Brenna
  9. Fear of Falling: David
  10. Time to Fly
  11. Masks
  12. End of the Race

**Official Website** - learn about the author, other works and resources.
Listening Library Audio Clip
Speak Study Guide
Teaching Students about Sexual Harassment
Lesson Plan on Sexual Harassment
Being a child of rape - a site for teens that gives advice on what to do if they're a victim of rape
Speak book review
Laurie's personal MySpace - a way to ask questions
Peer Pressure - a site to show students what peer pressure is, and that not all peer pressure is bad
Dealing with negative peer pressure
Clip of the Movie:

Wiki made by: Ashley Bale, Stacy Borr, Melissa Ausua