Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson details Melinda Sordino’s struggle as an outcast during her freshman year of high school. Everyone at school hates Melinda because of what they think she did at an end-of-summer party. But, they do not know the truth of what happened at that party – a truth that Melinda can’t tell anyone.
To make matters worse, Malinda’s at-home life is not positive either, due to her parents’ rocky relationship. Her parents are also not very compassionate or patient when it comes to her lack of desire to talk about school. In fact, they even try to bribe and threaten her to tell them why she is so sullen all the time.
The only place Melinda finds solace in is art class, which is taught by her only friendly teacher, Mr. Freeman. In Mr. Freeman’s class, each student is assigned a single word to base his or her studies on for the year. The word Melinda is assigned is “tree.” Therefore, Melinda spends the rest of the year learning how to draw, paint and sculpt a tree, which is harder than she thinks it will be. Through this class, she learns to express herself and finally is able to “speak.”
I like the way Anderson writes Speak in a cynically funny way, even though the book deals with heavy content. I also like how by the end of the book, Melinda gains the ability to express herself and overcomes her muteness.
I recommend this book to mature middle-schoolers or high schoolers who appreciate wittiness and sarcasm in writing. I also recommend Speak to those who like mysteries, because Anderson delays revealing what happened to Melinda until the end of the story. Overall, Speak is a quick and enjoyable read.