Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Someone Finally Read Speak

There are some books that I read because I want to and some books that I read because I feel like I should. Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak definitely falls under the second category. Though I'd read a few of Halse Anderson's later books (Twisted, Catalyst, Prom, and -- my favorite -- Wintergirls) and I'd heard tons of praise for Speak, I'd never bothered to read it. It falls under the category of: books I always meant to read.

After the whole Wesley Scroggins debacle last year, I meant to read it even more. When it showed up at my used bookstore I had to buy it. Eighteen pages in, I understood why this book is considered a contemporary classic, the beginning of the YA genre as we know it today. And it's not because the book tackles such a huge topic, one that hadn't been talked about much (at all?) before in books for teenagers; it's because that, while sullen, angsty, withdrawn, and dealing with something huge, Melinda manages to be something of an everygirl. Written in a very stream-of-consciousness style, Melinda's dry-toned observations on everyday high school life are spot on. Despite being a rape victim and outcast, her outlook on life is, to a degree, the quintessential teenage angst.

I mean, she's depressed, no doubt. But there's something in her voice -- her concerns, her lack of confidence, the fact that nobody listens to her paired with her observations on everything and everyone -- that speaks to every teenager. And there's something in the story -- a mix of the everyday trials of Being A Teen and the Big Issue that Melinda's dealing with -- that seems to lay the foundation for the YA we know today.

This is all to say that:
1. I'm so so glad I finally read Speak and
2. even more importantly, I'm so grateful that Speak was written and published in the first place.

If you're a YA reader (and especially a YA reader who also writes YA) who has somehow managed to go this long without reading Speak, I really urge you to.


  1. I love it someone new discovers Speak as I think it is so well done and covers such an important topic

  2. I remember I read this entire book sitting in the San Francisco airport a few years ago and I was just blown away by it. It's a really great book, and it's really important, too.

    This is probably silly, but you might want to check out the movie version of it. It isn't as good, but it's still interesting to compare the two.

  3. Helen
    It really is great. There are many YA books NOW that cover this topic, but so few (none?) when the book was published.

    Clementine Bojangles
    I actually saw the movie version of it! (because I really like KStew) It was kind of 'meh' but still pretty interesting, and I especially loved the character of the art teacher.

  4. I read this when I was in early highschool and I definitely need to reread it. Last year I picked up a bunch of other books by LHA and Wintergirls was also incredibly amazing.

  5. Zoe
    OH GOODNESS. I love Wintergirls like nobody's business. ALSO! How do you do that umlat (?) thing with the keyboard? I keep hitting all the keys and making fun symbols, but none of them are that.