Speak is brutal truth. I’m not sure what else to say, but I am extremely happy that books like this one exist.
I was infuriated with several characters before I even completed a quarter of the book. Anderson wrote characters that display traits and biases that we wish didn't exist, but they do and they need to be exposed; taught; experienced. That is what I love most about books like Speak and their authors. The authors that broach the tough subjects – the ugliness of life. Through their prose and their stories, readers can gain a sense of what these experiences are like before or even without ever having to experience it themselves.
In Speak Melinda faces trauma and she keeps it secret. She doesn't even tell her parents. Instead she shoves it down deep inside of herself and tries to ignore it hoping the memories will fade. She faces drastic changes in behavior, motivation, etc, yet every single person who should notice, doesn't…WTH? I’m not angry at the author for this; instead I think it is brilliant. How many youth have faced something that caused a drastic change and yet got faced with replies like, “boys will be boys”, “that’s just what girls do”, “oh, he/she is a teen, it is a phase and it will pass”. NO. When drastic, sudden, and unexplained changes take place in a youth, PLEASE, try to find the root cause. I want people to read this book for that alone, if nothing else. Notice when someone is having trouble. Notice when they change. Notice when it isn't a FRICKIN FRACKIN ‘phase’.
Melinda narrates this tale and she voices her anger, fear, confusion, and frustration in classic teen voice. She’s blunt, funny, and damaged. She’s a million other girls out in our world RIGHT NOW. This voice will speak to them. It might help them find their own voice. It might help those who have already found their voice help someone else find theirs.
Novels like Speak break my heart because I know for every Melinda in the fictional world, there are several in the non-fictional world. Novels like Speak also lift my spirit because every person who reads it will be touched in one way or another, and really, isn't that how we enact change?
If you’re a teacher, a parent, an adult in any capacity, read this book. Feel its message. Share it with a youth and talk about it. Open up the lines of communication with the youth that are in your life.
If you’re a teacher, a parent, an adult in any capacity and you have or plan to challenge this book, please read it again (or read it period if you’re so closed-minded that you didn't read before challenging), and read it as if you were that troubled youth. This novel doesn't teach our children to make bad decisions; it teaches them the consequences of bad decisions. It teaches them recovery after bad decisions. It teaches them that bad decisions don’t end the world, but that there are indeed consequences. And, it teaches them that their voice is powerful and that remaining quiet can most certainly be worse than speaking up.
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