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Cover image from goodreads.com

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it’s been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: “My throat is always sore, my lips raw…. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze…. It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.” What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors’ big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it’s because her parents’ only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she’s been struck mute: Andy Evans. He’s a senior at Melinda’s high school, and Melinda hasn’t been able to speak clearly since the Incident with him at the senior party last August.

(Story synopsis from goodreads.com)

I am seriously chastising myself right now for not reading this book sooner. Speak is a YA Lit novel that has been sitting on the shelves in my classrooms for years now, and many students have read it, however…I hadn’t read it. Now I’m questioning why I had never, before now, picked up this book!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is an absolute must read. Anderson allows the reader to first get a glimpse into Melinda’s life and her current every day struggles before revealing what happened the previous summer with the “incident” and “IT.”

I think was absolutely genius because I was suddenly transported back to freshman year of high school, and boy was it interesting to be looking at the teachers from a student perspective. (I found parts of it extremely entertaining now being a high school teacher myself. It had me questioning if my students see me that way.)

But the most moving moments had me thinking about Melinda and how she was just trying to get through each day ever since the incident. I have read some reviews on Goodreads about this book (I only ever read them after I’ve finished a book), and some people argue that they are unhappy with the ending of the novel. Now, I’m not going to give anything away –I hate when people spoil things for me –so instead, all I’m going to say is that the ending isn’t as neat and tidy as some people seem to think.

Instead we are left with a Melinda who is finally able to “speak.” In regards to the “neat and tidy ending,” Melinda didn’t really have anyone swoop in to rescue her; Melinda was able to find a way back to her own self and realized that she wasn’t as alone as she originally though.

Anderson’s combination of the incident with the typical turmoil of the teenage years really makes my gut churn as I think about it even more. Part of my mind goes to my students and I start wondering about each and every one of them. I hope and pray that none of them have experienced what Melinda has, but at the same time I hope and pray that I am not like some of the teachers in the book who ignore the signs and label Melinda as “trouble” right away.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has done so much to get me thinking about my own life and I sincerely hope that every teen out there reads this book as well. I think this is an important story that needs to be shared everywhere and with everyone. People should not be put off by the fact that this could be considered YA Lit. Instead, they should read an amazing story presented to us. Anderson has once again won me over with her writing.

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