Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

81%

46 Critic Reviews

The ending, in which her attacker comes after her once more, is the only part of the plot that feels forced. But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

 

About Laurie Halse Anderson

See more books from this Author
Laurie Halse Anderson is descended from many soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. While researching Forge, she walked barefoot in the snow, cooked over open fires, wrote by candlelight, split wood, and gained a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by our ancestors who were committed to the freedom of all people. She is a New York Times bestselling author of many novels and picture books. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Her books Speak and Chains were National Book Award Finalists. In 2009, Chains also received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and Laurie was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association. She lives in northern New York. Follow the author’s adventures on Twitter at twitter.com/halseanderson.
 
Published May 10, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). 211 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Children's Books, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical, Comics & Graphic Novels. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Speak
All: 46 | Positive: 39 | Negative: 7

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Oct 25 1999

The ending, in which her attacker comes after her once more, is the only part of the plot that feels forced. But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired.

Read Full Review of Speak | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Kristin Wilson on Sep 06 2013

Eventually the secret starts to spill out of Melinda and everybody reacts in different ways. Speak is a novel about growing up, trust, and friendship.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Cindi Rose on Oct 02 2012

Whether teens read this book alone or with parents or adults choose to read it on their own, it's a story worth experiencing. It's not graphic, there aren't curse words and the story is handled very maturely.

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Teen Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Cara S. on Sep 17 2013

I suppose time allowed for subconscious reflection, though, since when I choose this book to reread, the words sort of poured out.

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Teen Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Alex R. on Sep 03 2013

The book starts a movement and is a read I would highly recommend to teens, lovers of realistic fiction and anyone who, like me, possesses a quiet mouth and a loud mind.

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Teen Reads

Good
Reviewed by Dana Schwartz on Apr 23 2001

...SPEAK is a novel that will speak to anyone who is a teenager or was one. You can't help but empathize with Melinda's silent pain or laugh inwardly at the many cliques she describes, or the number of times her school's mascot is changed because it is deemed inappropriate by the principal.

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Kidz World

Excellent
Reviewed by KidzWorld on Dec 27 2006

This book includes humor as well as drama, and is sure to be of interest to anyone whose ever been shy or felt like an outcast. Or, if you're just looking for something new to read, it's worth a try.

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http://childrensbooks.about.com

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Kendall on Jul 20 2015

By writing Speak and defending its right to voice an issue, Anderson has opened the door for other authors to write about real teen issues. Not only does this book deal with a contemporary teen issue, but it's an authentic reproduction of the teen voice.

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CNN.com

Good
Reviewed by Nancy Matson on Nov 29 1999

Laurie Halse Anderson is a gifted new writer whose novel shows that she understands (and remembers) the raw emotion and tumult that marks the lives of teen-agers. Readers will appreciate her honesty.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Lexi H. on Jul 19 2015

Laurie Halse Anderson did a wonderful job writing her first novel, Speak. When Melinda starts to come out of her shadow, I want to jump into the book and tell her to keep going!

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Mella on Jul 19 2015

In conclusion, I liked the book, the style it was written in, and the wording that was used throughout the book.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Bapalapa2 on Jul 18 2015

Speak is a great book for high school students who feel they are alone with their problems and those who have a fear of breaking out and finally letting themselves speak.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Giselle G. on Jul 18 2015

It is a good read, whether to reach out to those suffering in school, or even adults who want to relive the tragedy and humor that went along with their high school years. One of the many truths they tell you in high school: Reading books can be a source of entertainment-- and Speak is existing proof of it.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Shannon M. on Jul 18 2015

I believe we understand what Melinda is going through and we feel compassion for her more than any other group of people. She might not speak to others, but she’ll always speak to you.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Alexye on May 01 2014

This story also teaches us not only the importance of, literally, speaking out against the wrong, but also of how hard it can be to do so. This book is a fantastic read and is a very good choice for someone looking for a deeper book then normal.

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Teen Ink

Excellent
Reviewed by boredstudent13 on May 01 2014

In my opinion, there is nothing negative about this book. I think Anderson wrote it to reach others who are in Melinda's situation. I don't usually like this type of book, but Anderson changed my mind.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by RozaB on May 01 2014

Children and teens and even adults need to know what happened to Melinda Sordino. And luckily, millions do. Speak celebrates a good ten years of changing millions of lives all around the world.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by AnnonymousGirl on May 01 2014

Everyone – parents, teens, teachers – should read this book. Anderson's amazing writing skills will change your perspective on bullying and alienation in schools forever.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by The_Fourth_Black_Sister on May 01 2014

I also loved this book because I felt that if I dropped into this book it would be very similar to my own high school. Not many authors can succeed at doing that. Speak is the most powerful book I’ve ever read, and would recommend to anyone who likes a good read.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Heidi G. on May 01 2014

I would recommend the book Speak , to any of my friends, mature middle schoolers and high schoolers, and people who like realistic fiction.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by _KTLS_ on May 01 2014

...I didn’t like it. This was not a happy book, and I like books that take the reader away from reality instead of forcing her to face it.

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Fyrefly's Book Blog

Above average
on Jan 10 2011

So, while this is objectively a good book, and definitely should be read, it’s not for everyone, and it wasn’t really something that spoke to me.

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Reading Lark

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie on Apr 21 2013

A must-read novel that you will fall in love with. Anderson writes with emotional honesty, an insightful wit, and a love for her characters that draws her readers into the story and make them laugh out loud, cry, and throw things in the same page.

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The Blue Bookcase

Good
Reviewed by Connie on Oct 15 2010

The subject matter is a brave one to take on, as is proven by the fact that this book has been banned in the past. However, it is an indisputably successful and important book, demonstrating the dangers of isolation and how even the most hated, silent person has a story of her own that could change you if only she would open her mouth and speak.

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Lit Stack

Excellent
on Sep 23 2013

Speak is a powerful novel that needs to be read by teenagers trying to navigate their changing world as they leave childhood and become adults, including the ugliness that comes with it.

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The Literary Omnivore

Good
on Jun 10 2011

Speak is a gripping and human novel about a girl’s recovery from an act of violence and the depression that ensues; it’s raw, sparse, and sturdy. Simply powerful.

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Feeling Fictional

Good
on Sep 27 2010

Overall Speak is an incredibly moving read and one I'm very glad I came across. I would recommend this story to both adults and teens and think it should be available in all schools and libraries.

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The Overflowing Library

Above average
Reviewed by Kirsty on Mar 19 2012

This book really hits home when you see the way in which Melinda is treated for something that really wasn't her fault...If I had any complaint about this book it is that you spend a long time hearing about the day to day aspect of her life and how awful it is.

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Diary of an Eccentric

Good
Reviewed by Anna on Feb 08 2011

I understand the need to shelter our daughters and sons from the hurts of the world as much as we can, but censorship does not accomplish that. Speak should be used to start a dialogue with teens, and you can be sure I will recommend it to my daughter when she’s a bit older.

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Boston Bibliophile

Good
Reviewed by Marie Cloutier on Sep 29 2010

A profoundly moving story of a young rape survivor navigating her first year of high school, it's a tough but important book that anyone with a secret can relate to.

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Alexa Loves Books

Good
Reviewed by Alexa S on Jun 25 2012

SPEAK is a book that deserves to be read by teens of all generations and nationalities. This is not only because I feel like Melinda is someone that readers would be able to understand, but also because it's a well-written account that gives people who are in the same dark place as she is a whole lot of hope.

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Jen Robinson's Book Page

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson on Apr 09 2007

Although this book is about the aftermath of sexual assault, it will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered from long-term depression. The portrayal of Melinda's depression is deep and accurate.

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Mrs. Q Book Addict

Excellent
Reviewed by Jennifer on Sep 27 2011

Speak tackles a very difficult subject that should not be ignored. When I hear about young teenagers and pre-teens committing suicide because of bullying, it breaks my heart. Bullying is on a much wider scale, teenagers are more easily accessible and parents are not around as much as before. I highly recommend this one.

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A Novel Menagerie

Good
Reviewed by Sheri on Aug 12 2009

Laurie Halse Anderson does a commendable job in writing in the voices of the youth. The story that she creates is realistic and relatable right from the beginning of the book.

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Reading Teen

Good
Reviewed by Janeth on Jul 18 2015

I think that this book would be beneficial for both teens and their parents to read. It could definitely be a starting point for conversations about decisions, consequences, communication and the cruelty of the land called high school.

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Novel Reaction

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica on Feb 15 2014

The ending still left some questions unanswered (why didn’t she get him arrested?!) and seemed a little abrupt. Overall it is a good book and I think teenagers (and adults with teenagers) should read this book. It could open the gates to talking about some of the more delicate topics.

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For What It's Worth

Good
Reviewed by Karen Alderman on Sep 30 2010

We don’t live in a perfect world; we can’t just read things that are perfect and happy...Not all of us have parents we can talk to. That doesn’t mean anything goes and we don’t try to shape our children’s lives. But Speak is told in context. It can help people. It has helped people. That makes it worth it to me.

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https://yareviews.wikispaces.com

Good
on Jul 20 2015

Despite some of the controversial topics involved in Speak, don't miss a chance to really connect with your student on issues that are meaningful to them, but also on the very important idea of the power of their words.

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https://yareviews.wikispaces.com

Good
on May 01 2014

Melinda’s character is certainly worth getting to know, and Speak is a definitely a novel worth reading.

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https://yareviews.wikispaces.com

Excellent
on May 01 2014

Speak is a YA novel that will connect with students on a number of different levels. Melinda's strong voice throughout the novel helps the reader to feel her pain in a very real way.

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Escape in a Book

Good
Reviewed by Mari on Oct 08 2012

Speak is a story that will speak to your heart, soul and mind. For the reader Speak carries several important messages.

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Rachel Ann Haley

Good
Reviewed by RACHEL HANLEY on May 31 2013

What makes SPEAK incredible is not the content, but the character. Melinda feels so real it's like discovering this horrible trauma happened to your own friend and she's been keeping it a shameful secret all this time.

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Escapism Through Books

Below average
on Jan 22 2012

I had very high expectations for this book and I wanted to love it. While I enjoyed some aspects of it, the aspects that I really wanted to shine just didn't. I wanted more, I expected more, and unfortunately, I just feel like this one fell really short of what I'd hoped it would be.

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The Crazy Bookworm

Excellent
Reviewed by Cathy B on Nov 19 2010

Everyone needs to know about SPEAK. If you hadn't read speak, I urge you too. This is a book that should be on the bookshelves of young adults, libraries and most importantly school libraries. Speak may have opened up some old wounds for me but it will help me stand up and speak in the future. This book has no age limit.

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Brush Up On Your Reading

Excellent
Reviewed by Nina on Feb 16 2011

This book should not be read only by those potrayed in the story like Melinda herself, her school mates, her parents, or her teachers. This should be read by every person because what happened to Melinda is not just limited to young people...

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A Garden of Books

Good
Reviewed by Annette on Oct 01 2010

It is a prolific writer that can transport the reader not only into the story, but deeper still into the character. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a story that will always remain with me...

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Reader Rating for Speak
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 2602 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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