Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Contemporary YA
Quality Rating: 8
Content Rating: PG-13
The Quality Rating:
Speak is a beautiful book. It takes the reader into the mind of Melinda, a girl who has been raped before the events of the book starts. She is a girl trying to start her ninth grade year, an outcast and in pain. She hasn't told anyone about what has happened to her -- can't talk to anyone about what happened to her -- and it's destroying her on the inside. Her fellow students hate her and don't want to understand her. Melinda doesn't want to talk and says next to nothing aloud throughout the entire book.
This entire story is about Melinda dealing with her pain, dealing with the monster who literally roams the halls of her school--the monster so many others worship as the hottest boy in school, and learning to find her voice, to admit what has happened to herself and to others.
Everything about this book is beautiful, from the prose to the story line. And I can't believe anyone would want to take it off the shelves.
The Content Rating:
This book is very mild in everything, except when it comes to one rape scene and one attempted rape scene. However, I disagree with claims that the rape scenes are graphic and pornographic--as some one dared say in an attempt to ban this book. The rape scene itself gives few details of what is physically going on, but keeps you in Melinda's head with the pain and confusion she is feeling. When it comes to sex scenes, I'm a lightweight. I can't handle much. But this isn't a sex scene. It's a scene of violence and it isn't graphically descriptive.
The attempted rape scene is pretty much a fight scene, but with the emotions of a girl empowered to fight back, of a girl who doesn't want the pain to happen again, who doesn't want that pain to happen to anyone.
I think this book is appropriate for anyone in late middle school or high school. In fact I think this book is necessary for any middle school or high school library to have, because....
How Could This Book Be Banned?
It's ironic, really. Melinda finds a poster of Maya Angelou that her school library tossed aside because I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was banned from her school, undoubtedly because of the rape scene. Do you guys see the irony? If Melinda had been allowed to have access to Ms. Angelou's book, she would have been able to read about a woman who had a similar experience to her own and survived. She would have better been able to handle her own emotions and known that she should speak out, that staying silent is slowly killing her.
This is why Speak must be on the shelves of schools. Books are written about people going through bad and awful things so that the kids who actually are going through those bad and awful things can feel they are not alone. So the victim doesn't feel like the villain. Without books like Speak, girls who are raped will just stay silent, like Melinda, afraid to come forward. But with this book, a girl can realize she should speak out, that she should tell someone, and that it isn't her fault.
Taking a book like Speak off the shelves is an atrocity. And this is why we must continue fighting the banning of books.