Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published in 1999 by the Penguin Group

Summary & Review

"I have entered High 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). This is the essence of Melinda Sordino's state of mind at the beginning of her freshman year at Merryweather High.
Speak gives a very accurate portrayal of the different clicks that exist in a high school setting, yet Melinda does not belong to any of them. Through Melinda's inner voice the reader experiences the trials and betrayals frequent in the world of an adolescent girl. "There is not point looking for my ex-friends. Our clan, the Plain Janes, has splintered and the pieces are being absorbed by rival fractions"(4). Entering High School as the "nark" who called the cops at a large party at the end of her 8th grade year, Melinda is left with no real friends. Because of her silence, no one understands her, and why she did what she did.

Speak is an honest portrayal of a young girl trying to survive a tragedy and the pressures that come with holding back the truth. By telling Melinda’s story the author is also shedding light on many controversial issues that exist in the real lives of adolescences. Issues such as teen violence, rape, bullying, and depression are often difficult issues to talk about. However, all of these issues are real for teenagers as well as the adults around them.
The manner in which these issues are presented makes Speak a beneficial resource for adolescents as well as educators.

Recommendations for Teachers

Speak uses the voice (or, rather thoughts) of an adolescent (13-14) girl to address the struggles with identity, social conflict, depression, and many other issues that today's teenagers face. Because Speak is written through the eyes of Melinda, young readers are able to identify with her (the protagonist), which is key in being actively involved in reading. Students are much more likely to enjoy and participate in the reading of a text if it is directly related and applicable to themselves. This makes Speak, after permission slips are turned in because of the crime discussed, a great book for the classroom. There are many resources on the web discussing how Speak could be incorporated into a lesson plan that is likely to evoke personal insight and understanding by the students. This book will open many opportunities for discussion, reflection, and possibly a new personal discovery for the YA student reader. Sometimes the best inspiration about one's own life comes when the realization occurs that they are not alone, and others have or are currently experiencing the same personal struggles. Among short paragraph structure and sometimes juvenile misspellings is a message to every reader--you have to Speak up for yourself! This book will touch the minds of the students it is presented to, and is likely to educate them in both Literature and English-related issues, but also in life issues as well, which is what every 13 or 14-ear-old is really interested in.

About the AuthorPortrait3.jpg

Laurie Halse Anderson was born Laurie Beth Halse on October 23, 1961. While she had always enjoyed reading she originally thought that she would become a doctor. However, she never really flourished in chemistry, in fact her teacher laughed at the idea. She felt writing was more of a hobby until it dawned on her it was something she could get payed for doing. She wrote all types of books and received plenty of rejection letters. Without the help of an agent, her first book was published in 1996 and a second later that year. While taking a break from writing the novel Fever 1793, Anderson wrote the novel Speak. Speak did better than Anderson had ever predicted. It won several awards: it was a National Book Award Finalist, a Printz Honor book, a Booklist "Top 10 Novels of 1999", a New York Times bestseller and many more. Finally agents were returning her calls. From 2000-2006 Anderson traveled around the country, she spent her time talking to not only teachers and librarians but also students about her books.

A trailer of the movie Speak based on the book.


(Just a note: the movie "Speak" is wonderfully done. However, Laurie Halse Anderson's witty charm when writing Melinda's thoughts just isn't captured. Also, important points in the plot are tweaked or omitted for time. Recommendation: Read the book, its much better!)

Other YA Works by Laurie Halse Anderson:

Fever 1793

External Links:

Author's Homepage
What Wikipedia has to Say
Summary, Themes, and Ideas for Discussion
Lesson Plan (9th Grade)
Lesson Plan (8th-12th grade)
IMDB Movie Information
Classroom Guides and Resources By Dr. Lee Brown
Teenreads.com Talks with Author about the made for TV movie
Laurie Halse Anderson Homepage
Speak- Lifetime Made for TV Movie