Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Laurie Halse Anderson: Speak

I picked up this book for four bucks at Books A Million a few months ago, thinking that it was more like something in the vein of Patricia McCormick's Cut, which I read in Spring 2008 for a young adult lit class I was taking in school.

I was surprised to find out that it wasn't like that at all.

It's the story of a girl named Melinda who's a social pariah for calling the cops to a end-of-summer party. Her friends hate her - people she doesn't know hate her. She sinks into a depression that robs her of her ability to speak - hence the title of the book. Every time she's pressured to say something, she finds her throat closing up, and she stays silent. Her physical inability to talk to people mirrors her inability to talk about what happened to her at that end-of summer party, an incident that is danced around before she finally finds the ability to tell someone.

I was surprised how good the book was. It's got a very strange set-up. There aren't real chapters, a lot of the dialogue is presented as

Mom: saying something

with Melinda's silences as blank spaces on the page. The book is divided into sections by the school year, each quarter ending with a rundown of Melinda's grades as she skips school and doesn't turn in homework.

It's a very fast read, and kind of heart wrenching if you've ever been through depression. Melinda just wants everything to go away, just wants to run away and hide, and no one will allow her to do that.

In the end, though, maybe things aren't perfect, but Melinda regains the ability to talk about what happened to her and to deal with the past that is haunting her.

I knocked this book out in a couple of hours, so if you've got some time, give it a go. It's worth it.

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