Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Photo taken from ISBN LIB

 Book Info

Title:  Speak 

Author:  Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher:  Speak
Language: English
Format:  Paperback 
Pages:  240 pages
ISBN-10:  0142414735
ISBN-13:  978-0142414736
Source:  Purchased, Celina's Books and Mags


From Goodreads:

"After Melinda goes through a traumatic and violent incident at a summer party, she calls the cops and becomes a social outcast. Her freshman year is a disaster. As time passes, she stops talking--except through her paintings in art class. Her healing process has just begun when her perpetrator attacks again. Only this time, she doesn't keep silent."


Choose the letter of the best answer.  The correct answer would be revealed after each item with an explanation.

1.  What is Speak all about?
     a.  Typical teenage issues
     b.  Teen angst
     c.  Trauma
     d.  All of the above and more

     Answer:  D.  Speak is all about freshman high school student Melinda Sordino's first year in high school after a very traumatic incident over the summer that turned the whole school from her.  Most of the story occurrs inside her head, her struggle with her new status as an outsider, and the typical teenage issues that she must contend with such as:  Parental neglect/indifference, lack of communication and support person, and inability to concentrate on school work due to painful memories.

2.  True or False:  Laurie Halse Anderson's writing, like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is full of symbolisms.
     a.  True
     b.  False

     Answer:  A.  This book is fraught with symbols, the title itself is a symbol even though it is pretty obvious what it stood for, although it does not only pertain to encouraging a person to speak.  It mainly presents the reader with a dilemma - to speak or not to speak.  To be or not to be.  That is the question, and it will be answered within this book, but not by this book, but by the reader.  There are more figurative elements within the story that the reader should pay attention to, lest they go unnoticed.  Some very simple statements, events and objects had something to stand for - one of the easiest is the poster of Maya Angelou that the librarian gives Melinda.  Angelou is hailed as "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton.  In the story, her poster was prominently displayed in the library, but after the school banned one of her books, the library was forced to take down her poster.  In real life, her book, Caged Bird appeared third on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000.  It was fifth on the ALA's list of the ten most challenged books of the 21st century (2000–2005), and was one of the ten books most frequently banned from high school and junior high school libraries and classrooms (Wikipedia).  There are many other very interesting symbols within this book and I encourage other readers of Speak to pick them out and interpret their meaning.  

 3.  Story-wise, the story of Speak is:
     a.  Disturbing and challenging
     b.  Light and gripping
     c.  Dragging and superficial
     d.  Intelligent and unemotional

     Answer:  A.  At once disturbing and challenging, this book would threaten the typical mindsets of individuals - be it parents, teenagers, teachers, or any member of the society.  I myself am a bit haunted by this story as some parts of this story could be said true about my own high school experience.  Although nothing as violent as what happened to Melinda, her struggles are very familiar and relatable.  Most people would read this and squirm and feel uncomfortable because the issues mentioned here are very close to home.  However, it is powerful enough to challenge the readers to face their own issues, learn to confront their demons, and speak up, have the courage to stand up for themselves and for their beliefs.  This book is very gripping, but light it is not.  It is actually a very heavy story, and the execution is what actually makes this very compelling reading.  Lastly, although this book is very intelligently-written and voiced, it actually explores with a myriad of emotions which makes it very powerful and empathetic.

4.  The character of Melinda could not speak. 
     a.  True
     b.  False
     Answer:  B.  Melinda could actually speak, and does so in several occasions throughout the book, although her spoken words were limited to very superficial matters like talking about shallow things with her friend Heather.  However, this is outweighed by the fact that she could not bring herself to talk about serious matters, or even towards persons of authority like her teachers and her parents.  She could speak but her fear of speaking up and causing more trouble - which is what actually landed her into the school's outcast list - are what stops her from voicing out any opinion whatsoever.  The sore throat, the mouth dryness are in my opinion, a pathological response of her body to her fear.

5.  Character-wise, Speak presented readers with:
     a.  Conveniently-realistic though stereotypical personalities
     b.  At once pathetic and sympathetic individuals
     c.  Both
     d.  Neither

     Answer:  C.  All the characters - Melinda included - were written typical societal behavior in the beginning, which I guess makes them stereotypes.  However, as the story progressed, a more interesting and unique personality began to surface within each character which in turn defined their individuality; and although the reader may or may not like the changes within these people, it would still lead to the successful execution of this story.  At some point I hated Melinda, but as her character transformation went on throughout the book, I became painfully aware of the reasons for why she acted the way she did in the first place.  The characters alone could rouse deep emotions from the readers and paired with the story, it made for an extremely dynamic reading.

6.  This book has:
     a.  Been often challenged due to its controversial subject matter.
     b.  Been made into a film in 2004.
     c.  Become a Printz Honor Book in 2000.
     d.  All of the above.

     Answer:  D.  Ironically, this book has been challenged a lot of times because of its premise.  In my opinion, the more that other people keep from letting teen readers read this book, the more that they are making them vulnerable and uncommunicative.  The biggest problem that people have today is lack of communication which actually makes this book a very timely portrayal of society even.  

This book was also adapted into film that starred Kristen Stewart.  I actually did not know about this before reading about Speak and now I guess I should go watch it, if only to see Kristen pre-Twilight.

In my opinion, this should have been awarded the Printz award in 2000, although I guess it's fine as this book had received more than ten awards from its first publishing up to the present time.

7.   Who should read this book?
     a.  Teenagers
     b.  Parents
     c.  Educators
     d.  Everyone aged 13 and above

     Answers:  D.  This book should not be read only by those potrayed in the story like Melinda herself, her school mates, her parents, or her teachers.  This should be read by every person because what happened to Melinda is not just limited to young people and the trauma that a person may experience may not just be limited to Melinda's experience.  A young executive might have been harassed by his/her boss or co-workers too many times but feels helpless to stand up for him/herself;  an old man might be maltreated by his adult children who are close-minded about the changes that her might be going through due to old age - the possibilities are endless since as I have mentioned before, the lack of communication is the cause of a majority of our present issues in society.  This book confronts people's hesitation or reluctance not just to speak but to assert themselves and stop hiding behind artificial facades.

8.  So did I like this book?
     a.  Yes
     b.  No
     c.  I did not like it - I LOVE it!
     d.  Undecided

     Answer:  C.  Need I say more?


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions. 


  1. I love your unique review formats! and it's been great to see you review all these LHA books since wintergirls... i'd like to think I'm at least a tiny bit responsible for the trend :) Speak is incredible but I haven't read it since I was in highschool, I'll probably be reading it again later this year though and this review just reminded me to hurry on that.

  2. 1. Love the format of this review. So catchy!
    2. Glad you liked it! Anderson is a pretty awesome author.

  3. Speak is an awesome book. I read it recently when the whole "speak loudly" controversy hit Twitter and the blogosphere. I'm glad there are books like this out there for people who have been through traumatic experiences; I only wish it wouldn't been around 19 years ago when I was molested by my brother-in-law.

  4. and they say bloggers don't sell books!


  5. I thought your review was so unique, and you definitely got me to want to read Speak. I can't wait to check this one out as the story feels very real, and as you said, it seems that everyone should read it. Thanks for your awesome review!

  6. I've heard so many great things about this book and it seems so moving .. I definitely want to read it more now !! Thanks for your review ;)

  7. I love the intricate style of your outline review formats. Great review! This book sounds very heavy indeed from your descriptions. Not my usual cup of tea, but it still sounds like an epic read. Great job! :)

  8. Zoe: You are definitely the one who started my fascination with Laurie Halse Anderson's books, so thank you! She's a great author and I love her books!

    Alissa: 1. Thank you! I owe it to Speak to write a different format :D

    2. She is definitely awesome, one of my big favorites.

    Jenni: Yes books like these that deal with real and serious/traumatic issues. It's sad what happened to you, I'm sorry about that and I hope you've become a better and stronger person after what happened to you.

    T.B.: Thank you, glad you liked it - and you should definitely grab a copy of this book as soon as possible!

    Elodie: It is very moving, a really great experience.

    Amateur Voice: Thank you! And yeah, it's a bit on the heavy side but very worth reading. I hope that someday if you feel like reading something different from your usual preference, you'd keep this book in mind.

  9. I agree and I absalutley love the way you did this review!!! Very creative :)

  10. Are Nina's Reviews:

    d) all of the above

    Answer: D!

    You rock my socks. Adding this to the TBR!

  11. Wow, love your review format! I'm glad you loved it, I so agree that this book was amazing. :D

  12. You have a nice review! Here's mine: Have a nice day!

    P.S. Hurrah for pinoy bloggers like you Ms. Nina


I just have to tell you, ARGH feeds on awesomeness, so if you can, drop him some awesome here, and I promise to give some awesome back :D

Right now, because of my really busy schedule, I'm cutting back on receiving awards. So until further notice, me and ARGH would not be accepting awards. But thank you for thinking of us, we really appreciate it!