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. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
I have this thing where I underestimate some of the best books I read, while overestimating some of the worst ones at the same time. It's a trend.
I didn't exactly have a good impression of this book when I began reading it. It wasn't something I had chosen- simply one that had been assigned to me in school because I had read all the other ones. Watching a trailer beforehand where Kristen Stewart was the main character wasn't exactly encouraging towards my expectations towards these books, so when I began this book, I wasn't expecting much. As usual.
It was a bit slow, to begin with- Melinda's inner dialogue, while appropriately snarky and sarcastic, took a while to get used to. She objectifies people, placing even her old best friends into terribly annoying cliches at first, but this just makes space for character development, and you come to sympathy with Melinda as you understand her situation fully. It is frustrating to see her progress than regress at times, but altogether she made a flawed yet likable main character.
Melinda's only one side of the story, though. The way the author dealt with the rape and specifically, it's mental effects masterfully. Much of this regressing in character development stemmed from this, and in a YA time where apparently 'rape is not that bad and can be sexy!' people lack understanding in just exactly how traumatizing something like that can be. This is one thing I have to commend Laurie Halse Anderson on. The way she dealt with Melinda was, while at times painful to read, very realistic and authentic in reality.
It's not just that one aspect, though. There are also sub-themes of neglectful parenting, looking beneath the surface in a person, bullying and how sometimes, even adults turn a blind eye. This was also very well executed by the author, and the novel ends with many unanswered issues and questions, while giving a satisfying ending.
The writing is also fantastic- bitingly funny and sarcastic, while staying true to the age of the character through Melinda's voice- naive and yet jaded at the same time. I loved the descriptions throughout the novel of very specific things- it really reflected the main character's eye for detail and talent in art.
Overall, Speak is a fantastic book which centers around the blunt and harsh issues of rape and the after effects of it. 5 stars.