Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Penguin Group
Age Group: Teen
Source: Purchased
Amazon     Barnes and Noble     IndieBound
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary from GoodReads:

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it’s been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: “My throat is always sore, my lips raw…. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze…. It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.” What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors’ big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it’s because her parents’ only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she’s been struck mute: Andy Evans. He’s a senior at Melinda’s high school, and Melinda hasn’t been able to speak clearly since the Incident with him at the senior party last August.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person–who may be screaming beneath the silence.

My Thoughts

Wow.  This was an amazing, intense story.  I knew this would be an amazing book.  I heard about it years ago, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it because of the subject matter.  I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but I finally decided to give it a try.  And I am so glad that I did.  I wouldn’t change a thing about this book.

First, I just have to say how much I loved that Speak was set in Syracuse, NY.  Why?  Because that is where I live, and books are rarely (if ever) set here.  I was able to picture the setting so well, and I loved all the references to the crappy winter weather we have in Syracuse.  Partly because I know precisely the kind of weather Syracuse has, and also as it helps conveys Melinda’s emotions.  The descriptions of winter here were just perfect.  I loved how Anderson described a lake-effect snow storm “the wind from Canada sucks up water from Lake Ontario, runs it through the freeze machine, and dumps it on Syracuse,” and how Anderson showed how much snow is normal for Syracuse “We had eight inches of snow last night.  In any other part of the country, that would mean a snow day.  Not in Syracuse.  We never get snow days.  It snows an inch in South Carolina, everything shuts down and they get on the six o’clock news.  In our district, they plow early and often and put chains on the bus tires.”  I love Mel’s hatred of winter “I hate winter.  I’ve lived in Syracuse my whole life and I hate winter.  It starts too early and ends too late.  No one likes it.  Why does anyone stay here?”  Being from Syracuse, in February and March everyone feels this way!

Maybe it seems strange how much I loved all the things Anderson said about Syracuse weather, but if you were from Syracuse, I think you would find it partly entertaining.  Syracuse, I believe, is the snowiest metropolitan area (population over 100,000) in the continental U.S.  Winter can start as early as October, and last as late as April.  We almost always (last year was a freak year) get over 100 inches of snow in any given year.  It drives us crazy, but I think we are also proud of our weather warrior status. Anyway, reading about this in Speak just spoke to me.  I loved how the weather shows Melinda’s emotions throughout the novel.  And I love what Melinda has to say about how the beginnings of spring effect Syracusans (and herself): “Too much sun after a Syracuse winter does strange things to your head, makes you feel strong, even if you aren’t.”

Okay, enough about Syracuse.  The writing is superb!  The way Anderson handles such a emotional subject is brilliant.  The book never felt too heavy, but it still felt real.  The reader can still feel Melinda’s pain, and  her struggles with herself.

The characters in this book are fully developed, and well rounded.  Everything all the characters say or do feels like something they would say or do.  Mel’s parents frustrated me so much, though.  When Melinda tears up because her parents noticed her drawing and gave her a sketch book for Christmas was such an emotional, wonderful scene in the book.

Okay, this is probably not the best review out there.  Suffice it to say: this book is AMAZING.  It’s an emotional read, but don’t miss out if you haven’t read this yet.

About Quinn

I'm a twenty-something children's librarian at a public library in Central New York. I've long left my teen years behind me, but I love to read YA and children's books. I have two adorable dogs. Ginger is a mix between a poodle and havanese, and Daphne is Bichon Frise. Other things I love: Favorite Movie: Singing in the Rain Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Favorite TV Show: Monk
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10 Responses to Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. Kelly says:

    Ha! My husband is from just outside of Syracuse. I loved this book, maybe I should have him read it for the local references. 😉

    • Quinn says:

      Hehe. The winters in Syracuse are brutal. I think anyone who lives, or has lived, in Syracuse during the winter, could appreciate Anderson’s descriptions of a Syracuse winter.

  2. Liesel Hill says:

    Wow that sounds awesome! What a great premise! I’ll TBR this one!

  3. Heather says:

    I have only seen the movie however after reading your review I am now going to read the book- asap!

  4. ladyruby07 says:

    I may contend with you on Syracuse winters. My dad’s from there (my mom’s from Oswego) and there is a strong belief Buffalo has worse winters. 🙂

    On another note, I REALLY wanna read this! It’s one of the books that an English class in my college is going to be reading. Looks so good!

    • Quinn says:

      It is a common belief that Buffalo, NY has worse winters, but actually Syracuse has more snowfall the vast majority of winters. Not that Buffalo winters are easy, because I’m sure they aren’t Here’s a link to a Wikipedia Page on the Golden Snowball Award Since Syracuse started “competing” in this contest in winter 1951, Syracuse has won the Golden Snowfall (Upstate NY city with most snowfall) 44 times. Buffalo, 7. Syracuse’s average snowfall for a winter is 116.9 inches, Buffalo’s average is 93.6 inches.

      Now, Oswego, I believe, gets even more snow that Syracuse! 🙂

      Speak is an amazing book. Do read it. And you mom can tell you all about CNY winters, if you are not familiar with them.

  5. I adore Speak! It is such an emotionally wrenching, powerful book. It’s one of the few issues books that I actually didn’t mind reading. I definitely plan on reading more Anderson in the future! That’s awesome you were able to connect with the story more being from the same area. Also, if you haven’t seen the Lifetime movie yet, you should. I thought it was pretty well done, considering it’s a Lifetime movie and all.

    • Quinn says:

      Yes, I really enjoyed Speak despite the fact that it is an issue book (not normally my cup of tea). I haven’t seen the movie, but I will have to check it out.

  6. emziixgx says:

    This book has been on my tbr list for so long and I have never got round to buying it, Really need to get my hands on it soon, i really enjoyed your review

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