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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Review

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley. The book is twenty years old but is being republished and I liked the sound of it. Thank you to Hachette Children's Group for granting me access to this book. 

What's it about? Melinda is about to start high school in Syracuse, New York. She used to have friends - Rachel, Nicole, Ivy, some others - but ever since a party at the end of the summer she's been an outcast. Melinda was supposed to be at Rachel's all night, but they snuck out to the party. While there, Melinda was sexually assaulted by an older teenager, so she phoned the police. No one knows why she did it, though, not even her parents, who know nothing about the whole incident and who spend all their time arguing anyway.

Mel manages to make a new friend in her first few weeks of high school. Heather is a new student and is trying out a number of different cliques within the school. Mel also finds a disused janitor's closet that she begins to make her own. She is failing nearly all her subjects, unable to speak or make herself heard, but she likes Art and her art teacher. 

This is in parts a really funny book. I liked Mel's dry sense of humour and how she made herself get through things. I liked how there was some resolution but not in a way that made it feel unrealistic. I think it has aged well for a book that is two decades old, and I think the message about young women being assaulted is absolutely still an important one.

I don't think I've read anything else by Anderson but I would in the future. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No I don't think so 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think Mel's mental health issues count, yes. She just feels totally stifled, in a way that feels extremely relatable. I thought at first that she was literally mute, but she does speak occasionally. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, trigger warning for assault 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so 

Is there any talk of death? I don't think so 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? I wish there had been a little bit more resolution. I wish Mel had confided in someone - a friend, her mum, or a teacher, even her guidance counsellor - but that's probably me as an adult thinking about it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had requested four books on Netgalley and was really eager to get to all of them! 

What do I think of the cover? There's a number of covers and they all feature a girl being stopped from speaking and trees, which is a theme in the book, so I like them 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of All the Rage by Courtney Summers. 

How many stars? Six out of ten 

Speak will be re-published in August 2019. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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