Published by Puffin Books on April 1, 2001, originally published October 22, 1999
Genres: Young Adult, realistic fiction, tough issues
Format: Print, Hardcover, Audiobook, Overdrive
At the start of Melinda's first year at Merryweather High she is thrown to the proverbial wolves. An incident in the summer has turned the majority of the student body against her, especially her friends. She slowly starts to close herself off from everyone. Nobody believes her so she realizes she should just stay quiet. Anderson tells a heartbreaking tale of a girl ostracized everything around her. She is only able to truly face the incident through her art class. She has to learn to speak up for herself and face past events.
SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Fiction (1999), Edgar Award Nominee for Best Young Adult (2000), Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2000), South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book Award (2002), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2001), Evergreen Teen Book Award (2002), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (2000), Lincoln Award Nominee (2005), National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature (1999), Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for YA (2002)
Speak is a highly controversial book for some people. Many people have banned it due to the content matter. It should be known that the topic of rape is heavily discussed in this book, thus why many people have issues with the book. Ultimately, this is a fantastic book to have on one’s shelf, be it personal or library. It is especially important in libraries due to the message that the book conveys. Anderson uses this book to teach people to speak up for themselves. This is a highly valuable message, especially for any teenager reading this book. The fact that so many people have tried banning the book shows that it is necessary. This book is important. It deals with heavy issues, but there are teens out in the world that need to hear the messages that this book provides.
The only weakness for this book is the fact that it is a tough read. Listening to the audiobook made it easier to get through some portions of the book. It is a struggle to go through what Melinda has to go through. Readers will slowly learn the events of the incident that has set her apart from everyone else. It is a harrowing journey to get to know this character. Melinda is a freshman girl who did not want to be set apart, but she was unable to speak up for herself. This book is a tough read, but it is an important read. Readers should be aware that it is not easy to witness the spiraling out of Melinda. This should not keep them from reading it, however.
This was a very strong book but it is easy to see why it would be so controversial. Since it was originally published in 1999, there were not too many teen books diving into the issues of rape. Now there are several more diving into this dark issue, among many other tough issues. This novel is important for YA because it established the need to voice the tough issues. Anderson started YA on a path of diving into hard to handle topics. Books like this have only served to help the people reading them.
Art was a huge part of the novel and as such teens should look into several of the authors mentioned in the book. Students can be broken into teams to each research a different artist: Picasso, Van Gogh, Kahlo, Pollack, Dali, etc.
For an art activity a teacher could create slips of paper much like the ones Mr. Freeman created. They should each draw a slip and create an art piece including the object. This would allow the student to feel much of what Melinda felt as she struggled to create art with a tree. This activity could come after a discussion or the research of different artists.
Many people often misconstrue what the term “free speech” means. This novel deals with speaking up for yourself in a difficult situation, but free speech applies to much more. Everyone should feel like they can speak up for themselves no matter the topic. Some people do not know what free speech really means. This resource can help to quickly demonstrate what free speech is and is not.
What Does Free Speech Mean? (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does
The biggest issue with this book was the topic of rape. Everyone needs to be aware that there are resources available for anyone who has had this happen to them. You have to know that you are not alone. You do not have to stay silent. You can speak up and get help. This resources gives facts about sexual assault as well as contact information for anyone seeking help. The resource is specifically for teens, but on the right there are options for adults and children services.
For more books dealing with sexual assault, rape, and dating violence check out this link: https://wrappedupinbooks.org/readers-advisory-resources/booklist-sexual-assault-rape-and-dating-violence-in-ya-novels/
Also, here is an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcLckscEPdE