SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (Banned Books Week)

Melinda wanders the halls of her school.  She sees the excitement of the cheerleaders (which she has much opinion on this group), the decorations for the upcoming dance, people passing her… passing her… passing her by.  The preps, the  jocks, the human waste, euro-trash, big hair chix, goths, thespians, shredders, country clubbers, suffering artists… all roaming the halls in their little herds… Melinda stands alone.

She is outcast.  And she is not speaking.

There is no point in looking for her friends…. err.. ex friends.  Her best friend Rachel, now goes by Rachelle.  They have moved on without her.  Ever since the day she called the cops during the party she was attending, the entire school population has turned their back on her.


What they do not know is why Melinda called the cops that fateful night.  Why…. why …. why…. they don’t know about IT.  They don’t know about the rape.  If only Melinda could Speak.  Instead, she stops speaking… to her parents, to her teachers, to anyone.



Reposting from my original post on 9/28/2010

Told in the first person of Melinda, I found this book to be filled with  raw and real emotion.  Melinda narrates with a true teenager voice.  She is sarcastic and funnily so.

The first ten lies they tell you in High School:

1.  We are here to help you.

2.  You will have enough time to get to your class before the bell rings.

3.  The dress code will be enforced.

4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.

5.  Our football team will win the championship this year.

6.  We expect more of you here.

7.  Guidance counselors are available to listen.

8.  Your schedule was created with your needs in mind.

9.  Your locker combination is private.

10.  These will be the years you look back on fondly.

I have to be honest… I picked up this book because I was hearing all the hype around it being challenged and I was hearing also the other side of what this book was about.  After reading it, I am pro this book.  I did not find the subject matter to be anywhere near as strong as it was described and certainly not offensive.  I thought Laurie Halse Anderson wrote in a very tasteful manner about a hard subject.

The book is a quick read and an important one.  I loved Melinda’s inner dialogue throughout the book, and it is interesting to watch her grow in her own self-confidence through the dynamics that Laurie Halse Anderson breathed into other characters.

A book like this may help young girls find their voice to SPEAK.  And that is really what SPEAK is all about.

FYI:  Before she was Bella, she was Melinda.  Kristin Stewart plays the lead in the movie SPEAK.  (Which I am excited to see!)

Why was SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson banned?

The 1999 young adult novel Speak, which chronicles a high school freshman’s struggle with the aftermath of rape, was challenged by a Missouri professor and father of three in June.

Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University in Springfield, made a public complaint to his local school board about Speak and two other books included on English reading lists at Republic High School. Scroggins also issued an editorial in the Springfield News-Leader on Sept. 18, in which he categorized Speak and other books on the high school reading list as “material that should be classified as soft pornography.”

I purchased my copy of SPEAK at Barnes and Noble

59 thoughts on “SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson (Banned Books Week)

  1. I read this book last year, and honestly I think that the author really gave Melinda a voice. It was a tough subject. The characters really all behaved in a believable manner. It was a well done book.

  2. I read Speak a while ago and recommend it to teens in my school’s library on a weekly basis. Every one of them returns quickly, having devoured and loved the book. They want more by Halse-Anderson or books like it. What more do we need to recommend (not ban) a book?!

    1. Exactly Helen. I am not a promoter of teenage partying (ooh ask my boys -they will both tell you I was the strictest parent they knew!) but I understand the point of this book. It spoke to me.

  3. I’ve had Speak on my TBR pile for a while, but the recent stuff compelled me to pick it up now. I enjoyed it and now will recommend it. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for teens at all…and I’ve definitely been called a “prude” before.

    1. Ronnica, that is funny… I am pretty conservative too when it comes to what I read in a YA book. I try to think about the age that will be reading it and how they will interpret the words… I too recommend this read. 😀

  4. I read “Speak” a long time ago, EXCELLENT book! But, I did not really care for the movie, I was disappointed, thought it could have been done better. I am interested to see what you will think.

  5. The Twitter speakloudly campaign made me read this book, too. Like you, I thought it was very well done and an important book. Absolutely no reason to ban it. I called the writing style luminous despite the dark subject matter, and I felt it gave a realistic voice it’s subject.

  6. Now I know why I couldn’t get this book for this week – every other blogger has it! :–) But from everything I have heard, I think it is such an important book. And your review managed to add new insights too!

    1. Thanks Jill, it is hard to put into words a book that is both humorous teen speak as well as having an underlying terror. I hope you are able to get it and read it soon.

  7. I haven’t read this one…yet! But I have seen the movie. It was very compelling…

    BTW, I’ve ordered a copy of another movie based on a book we read recently…To Kill a Mockingbird. I ordered it from the library, of all places!

  8. I think it’s important to address issues that can happen to young women. In our family we speak openly, albeit tactfully about sex and how to protect ourselves from pedophiles. Since my daughter is young this is my greatest concern now. Our children ask a lot of questions re sexual matters and we try our best to answer them *without blushing too much*. It’s an important part of their emotional development to respect their little minds and teach them the beauty of how our wonderful bodies work and to have self-respect.

    Having said all that, your review sounds good and I trust your judgment that the topic is tactfully addressed. Thanks !

    1. Thank you Laura. It sounds to me that this book would be a good fit for you and your daughter (of course I do not know what age she is so I mey mean eventually…). 🙂

  9. I’m really surprised that someone who has daughters would actually ban this. I want my daughters to know what can happen. Maybe not at 10 and 12, but when they get into high school this kind of stuff happens and they need to know that they can SPEAK…

    1. Excellent point Deb. I think open communication between parents and children is so important. I have always said my boys have always been brutally honest. They would tell me things that I didnt even necessarily want to know, but I am glad they felt they could tell me.

  10. This really was such a powerful book/movie for me personally. I’ve read it and watched it and they both helped me move forward from a really terrible point in my life.

    Honestly, I’m so happy it was brought up in such a powerful way because I think everyone should read this book. So happy you enjoyed it!

  11. It’s really sad when adults make weak excuses to keep books with difficult topics out of students’ hands. Although it’s a different theme Speak reminds me of Asher’s 13 Reasons Why – another intense teen novel.

  12. Although I strongly disagree with Mr. Scroggin’s point of view, I thank him. His protest couldn’t have come at a better time. He again brought this important book to the public’s attention and as a result, more people who NEED to read it will. If he doesn’t want his children to read it, they don’t have to, but he is cheating them.

    1. Pat that is exactly what happened. I had not even heard of the book and when it first came up i thought it was new. I was shocked to see that it had been released 10 years ago.

  13. Totally agree with you Sheila, I listened to this one on audio and Laurie Halse Anderson gave Melinda a very realistic ‘voice’. I’m so glad I experienced it.

    Sounds like Mr Scroggins has his hand in a lot of pies!!

    I also listened to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and it blew me away, I found it quite shocking but it was beautifully written; I think I said something like “exquisitely painful”. If you have a minute check out my review for it

  14. I don’t think this should be a banned book either. Stuff like this shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. It should be discussed. Our children need to be aware of what can happen. Knowledge = power in my opinion.

  15. Back when she was in high school, my daughter read this, then one of my sons read it. They both said it was a very powerful book. So I read it. It was great, if a little sad. I had no idea until recently that this had ever been challenged. What – do people think that this never ever happens? That teens never heard of sex or rape? This type of thing goes on all over the place and whenever the time. Back when I was in middle school one of my friends was gang raped by four boys in our school. No matter what we sais, she refused to call the cops or even tell her mom. Being 13 at the time (and kind of following 13 year old ethics – we didn’t tell anyone either). another friend was tricked by a 35 year old man into having sex. She thought it was great. I was creeped out. Kids know what’s going on. Banning books isn’t going stop anything – maybe reading a book might give a girl the courage to speak out to someone who can actually help.

  16. Knowledge is everything. Parents and people who complain about books like this think they are protecting children when in reality, they aren’t. Boys and girls need to know what can and does happen in the real world. I do believe there is a certain age that shouldn’t read books like this. Just from what you have said, I would never allow my 10 and 12 yr olds to read it. (Neither is mature enough) I haven’t read this book yet, but I will be soon (I hope). I agree that reading this book might just help more girls speak out.

    1. Tammy – I agree, this book is not for everyone, parents should take caution to be sure it is right for their teen before it is read – to me this is more 13+ (that even seems young to me but it probably is not anymore)

  17. I’ve just posted my own review of SPEAK and i feel the same. It angers me that it is being denied to the very readers that need it the most. I know that I needed it when I was in high school in the 70s. Keeping a teen too naive is as dangerous to them as pushing them into traffic!! That was my personal experience as one who was kept so naive I did not know what a hickey was until I was nearly 20 and already engaged to be married. They did not do me any favors by keeping me that innocent all they did was paint a target on me. Several of my BBW reviews this week have addressed this very thing ie protecting young adults from the very knowledge they should be arming them with.

    sorry this is one of those things that can send me into a tizzy and bring on a 3000 word rant.

  18. I think I’m late but the book and movie were great I was a teen who was raped and now I spoke to someone about it and now i feel better than ever.

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