This book was a little underwhelming for me. All of the hype on the internet and numerous amazing book reviews I read about it had really gotten my hopes up; but, in the end, the book seemed to be just another standard novel written to stir discussion. The meaning behind the book, and the fact that this book can be a good resource for students or teens going through similar issues, is the only reason I felt I needed to give it 4 stars.
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Summary: "'Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say.' From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself." (Goodreads)
This book took me a moment to get in to. The cadence at the beginning is different and unique, but after time I enjoyed the easy to read writing style of Anderson. The book is written in first person, kind of a in journal-like manner, which makes the feelings of Melinda seem even more true and authentic.
Honestly, I love contemporary novels--they're usually my go-to quick read. But something about this book kind of lacked the luster that I was wanting. It's not a thriller, there's no big plot twist at the end, and there really isn't much of anything abnormally interesting. We go into the book knowing why Melinda is suffering, so the novel simply goes into detail in these journal-like chapters about how she combats this terrible tragedy and how she continues to live as a high-schooler.
We get to know Melinda throughout the book, and I wind up loving her as a sister in the end, but like many other reviewers have said, the secondary characters could use a little work. That's the hard thing about first person writing, the main character has to continue thinking and talking as though she is real; however, we need to have the main character think and talk about the secondary characters in a way that lets us get to know them and their circumstances. I think that this was lacking in Speak, especially with the main antagonists, IT. IT is the main point of hurt for Melinda, but we don't ever really get to know this character or experience him in any other way than some short and terrible snip-its of encounters that Melinda has with him. At the same time though, I understand that this is through Melinda's eyes, and she wouldn't want to relive, talk about, or learn the circumstances of the one her hurt her--she would just want to forget. So, this is why we don't learn much about IT.
Though this book is quite a depressing novel, it doesn't make you feel sad or completely down as you read it. Melinda is often funny, and you can tell that she is just a normal girl trying to get through the tragedy that happened. The message and terrible-ness of the novel is not too overwhelming, and can even be tolerated by the oversensitive. The meaning behind this story and the significance that it can have on young readers who might have experienced the same thing as Melinda is why I would recommend this as a read for most.
Check out my February Reads post to see more books that I am planning on completing before this month ends. Do you have any suggestions for me?