Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. (Summary from Good Reads)

Move over Tyger, Tyger.  Sorry Kersten Hamilton.  I have just found the best book I've read this year.  I wouldn't have normally read this book.  It took me out of my comfort zone and hit a little too close to home.  I wonder how many female bloggers have read this book and written that.  How many of us, male or female know someone that has been raped, sexually abused, forced into sex with a boyfriend or husband.  But this novel isn't about me or my experience.  It's about the experience of a thirteen year old girl who gets drunk at a party one night and finds herself losing her virginity to a senior boy she doesn't know.  After he's done he just walks away and leaves her there and she calls the police.  Someone takes the phone from her and realize she's called the police and they scatter.  She crawls home.  She is unable to tell anyone about what happened.

She has two parents who are so wrapped up in themselves that they only see the surface of Melinda, that her grades are dropping from solid B's to failing, she doesn't talk, no friends.  They think she is rebelling and punish her by grounding her.  In a word they are STUPID!  I can relate to this as well.  When my depression first hit,  I stopped eating, went to bed at 8:00 and started drinking.  My parents never noticed that I cried all the time.  My father would yell at me because I didn't eat when previously he was disappointed because I was overweight.  Melinda seemed to be eating more.  She exhibited classic signs of depression, but her parents were so sure she was just doing it for attention.  I wanted to shake them and yell at them and say, "She's not talking.  At all!  Why don't you ask her if everything is okay???  Take her to a therapist obviously not all is well."  But no rescue on the parental front.  And no friends.

Her friends desert her because of what she did at the party, even her best friend.  And the only friend she can find is a new girl that doesn't know her reputation.  They are friends in a way.  Throughout the whole novel, Melinda answers people through her mind, but she cannot speak to them.  At one point, she feels like her throat is closed up and she'll never speak again.  "IT" as she calls the boy who raped her, torments her just by being around.  He taunts her by whispering things in her ear, standing close behind her, and then he starts dating her friend, her ex best friend.  She tried to warn her anonymously in a letter she sends to her house, but her friend doesn't listen.  She writes his name on the wall in the bathroom under the heading "Boys to Stay Away From".  A few days later, a friend from art class who has forgiven her brings her back into the bathroom to show her all the other comments under his name.  Melinda feels vindicated when she reads them.  Apparently he has treated other girls the same way.

All through the novel, Melinda has been working on an art project, trying to draw a tree.  She hasn't been able to get it right the whole year.  She's been skipping classes and spending time in the janitor's closet she's cozied up for herself and she's hung up a picture of Maya Angelou over an old mirror.  She usually sleeps in there then writes a late pass for herself to get out of class.  It's only toward the end of the year that she begins to feel like she can start to Speak.  She starts with saying "No" to decorating for the prom to the girl that was friends with her then dumped her so she could be with the "Marthas".  She says no to an oral report on the suffragettes.  Her friend, David speaks up for her, but tells her she should have spoken because that's what the suffragettes did.  Things finally come to a point when "It" catches her alone after school cleaning out her janitor's closet.  He closes them in and locks it.  And she learns to speak.  She yells and screams and he tried to stop her but it's too late, people are there outside the door.  She has broken the mirror behind the Maya Angelou poster and is holding a shard against Andy Evans throat.  She unlocks the door and the whole girls Lacrosse team is there.  One  of them runs to get help.  We assume he is brought to justice, but don't hear what happens.

It is the last day of school and Melinda's tree still isn't done.  She is finally able to make it, feels her soul and puts it on paper.  Mr. Freeman the art teacher gives her an A+.  She is crying and he comforts her with a joke and hands her a box of tissues.  "You've been through a lot, haven't you?"  he says to her.  After a few more sentences about how the ice in her throat melts and the words float up she says, "Let me tell you about it."

This is the most moving story I've ever read.  I think ever kid that goes through tenth grade should read it maybe even earlier.  It should be required reading.  It's disturbing that in the back of the book Ms. Anderson is asked "Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you?"  and her answer is" it's from guys that liked the book but are confused by why Melinda was so upset about being raped."  She says they are not taught "the impact that sexual assault has on a woman."  And that parents don't want the subject of rape to be discussed in a book for teenagers but that according to the Department of Justice, 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18 and 46 percent of those victims are between the ages of 12-15.  And that's the ones that are being reported.  Many of us never speak up because of shame, guilt or fear.  Melinda was brave and strong, it just took a long time for her to find her voice.

Mr. Scroggins, who complained that this books was "soft porn" has obviously never read this book.  The rape scene is so fast that you hardly know it happened and there is nothing graphic about it.  And that's it.  I can't see what he's complaining about.  I've seen t.v. commercials that are much worse.  Many t.v. shows shown during Prime Time are much worse.  Thank God for books!  I can't imagine why anyone would want to ban this book.  It will always be timely because of the subject matter. 

I know I did a complete review of the book, but I couldn't get the book from my library, there are three copies in our system .  I reviewed it for anyone that can't get a copy or doesn't want to read it.  It is definitely a simplified version with so much left out.  It is such a well written book and we hear most of the story from inside Melinda's head.  She is numb almost the whole school year.  If your child is going off to college, pack this book for them to read.  It's so important for our kids to know that they have to tell.  I wish there was a simplified version of this for elementary school kids.  I know parents would shriek,  but it might help a little girl who is being abused by her father and doesn't know that it is wrong.  Or doesn't know who to tell.  Or is afraid.  I don't mean to be on my soapbox, but it could happen to your son or daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew, mother, sister anyone, particularly females.

Heather stepping off her soapbox in Sandwich


  1. This is a banned book? This is one of my favorite books. Although, since seeing the movie I picture the movie cast now when I read instead of my own imagination. But really this is a banned book?

  2. This is definitely a powerful and emotional read. Great review :)

  3. It's not banned, but people are fighting to have it pulled from school curriculums and off public school library shelves. You must have hit the wrong blogs to not know about this He's a management proffesor at Missouri State University. I only remember one rape scene and I just read the book and it was so clean. Him calling it "soft porn" according to Michelle Lee who writes against him suggests that the fact he calls it that means he gets off on the rape scene. You can look his name up on Google and see what others say against him.

  4. that was a beautiful write up for a novel that needs to be talked about more. I can tell this book just hit you where it hurt (and how couldn't it?).

    Ever notice how banned or challenged books eventually end up on the required reading lists?


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