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Booktalking "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson


Melinda Sordino busted a summer party by calling the cops, and now she is starting high school. Apparently, her classmates are never going to let her forget it.

High school is charming. Pep rallies, yearbook rituals, and prom. Melinda has teachers such as Hairwoman ("The Best Lost Homework Excuse" essay, etc.) for English, Freeman (art is about emotion) for art, and Neck (psycho spaz) for fizz ed. The girl constructs lists such as "The Top Ten Lies They Tell You in High School."

Her classmates assort themselves into a variety of cliques, such as the jocks, the Marthas (Martha Stewart, her friend Heather is desperate for their acceptance), the plain janes (Melinda's group), etc. 

Melinda commences ninth grade with a bad attitude, low grades, and periods of hiding in a utility closet. Andy Evans, aka Andy Beast, dates Rachel, who is her former bff. On a mental health day at her home, Melinda watches Oprah, Sally Jessy and Jerry. She contemplates a speech that she could give to her classmates entitled: "My Summer Vacation: a Drunken Party, Lies and Rape." 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, 1999

It blew my mind that the author mentioned that many boys expressed confusion as to why Melinda was so hurt by the rape. That tells you something about how boys are raised and socialized in this country. As she did in Wintergirls, the author got the tone brilliantly correct for the way in which many victims of sexual trauma may think and behave in its aftermath. 

I like how the book is divided into marking periods; it really gave me the sense of reliving my high school days. I love the snarky comments that Melinda offers about her teachers and the chaos that is high school.

Incidentally, the book was set in Syracuse, complete with mentions of Centro buses and the like. That is my hometown.  


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