Melinda Sordino knows about ostracism, teasing, and drama. From her first day at high school, she's an outcast, practically a pariah, because she made a fateful phone call that broke up an end-of-summer party and resulted in the arrival of the police.
Now, no one will speak to her, and even the new girl, from out of state, who is at first friendly, eventually dumps her for more popular company. There isn't room in a single clique --- or clan, to use Melinda's term --- for her to belong. No space on the social hierarchy, determined by popularity, appearance, and whether or not you were loyal enough to your friends not to blow the whistle on them at a party.
The thing is, Melinda didn't call the police because of the party. She called for another reason, and it's a secret that haunts her, but she can't bring herself to talk about it in the face of so much hatred and anger. The only place she feels safe is in art class, where she struggles with a year-long project that turns out to be the key to unlocking her silence.
Author Laurie Halse Anderson writes an evocative, compelling, character-driven novel with Speak. Protagonist Melinda narrates the novel in bitterly ironical vignettes, uncovering one hypocrisy after another about high school in as sarcastic, cynical, and cutting a voice as only a teenager can produce.
From the very first paragraph --- "It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache" --- the immediacy of the first-person, present-tense point of view yanked me into the story and into Melinda's personal space, where, after just that first page, I was eager and more than willing to remain until the very last page.
Melinda is an eminently sympathetic character, three-dimensional, a fascinating mass of juxtapositions --- attitudinal teenager plus vulnerable artist --- that make her a pleasure to cheer for and side with throughout her story.
Awarded the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature by the American Library Association, Laurie Halse Anderson's YA novel Speak is one every teenager will empathize with, and one that every adult will appreciate.
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Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
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Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.