Book Reviews

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Edition: Kindle owned
Pages: 198
Series: Stand alone
Genre: High School, YA,
Publish: (My version) May 10,2011 (Original) 1999
Rating: 3.5 STARS


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.


Spoilers ahead!

Yes, that’s right, I am finally reading this book. I have this and Wintergirls. I have been wanting to read these since I was in high school, but always checked out. Ick. Anyway I finally am sitting down after about ten or so years of wanting to read these books.

Ten years y’all. Do you know how much expectation is accumulated in ten years? I was scared to pick the book up… well my kindle up… technicalities.

The First Ten Lies They Tell You In High School

1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have enough time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds
5. Our football team will win a championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with your needs in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly.

Where to begin…

This book wasn’t as great as I was expecting. The writing is amazing, but I felt lacking in the characters. Maybe I’ve been out of high school too long, or maybe it’s the fact that I went to a small rural high school that is literally surrounded by wheat fields. I have no idea if high school in the city is like unless I look to movies or books. We all know that you can’t always trust those because of exaggeration. But, I did like the fact that through the whole book, the MC was affected. It showed.


Melinda was raped at a high school party. The book is about her figuring out what happened and how it affected her through her freshman year.

I liked the plot. I loved the ending. Will I ever read it again, no. Was it my favorite, no.


The MC was way to judgmental for me. Seriously what did the cheerleaders do to you? In my high school experience I didn’t have the cliche cliques. There were cliques don’t get me wrong, but growing up in a class that has less than 100 kids, you tend to know everyone even though they aren’t your friends, you know there is more to them than this cookie cutter high school bull crap.

So for me this just felt like the main character was the only one the author was trying to show character growth in, besides the art teacher. I felt the characters weren’t well thought out, but maybe the author was just showing them through a traumatic girl’s eyes who didn’t feel like a person in the world cared.

There was a pet peeve of mine though. I do not like when authors write parents as uncaring people. I get some parents are like that but not every single one. Others are more involved. Again this just felt cookie cutter. I think I would have been more sympathetic if the mom tried to get Melinda to talk more. Actually try to communicate but there wasn’t any of that. The parents were a total let down.


I can see how this might help someone or how it brings attention to the subject. The subject matter is hard to approach no matter how it’s written. I will say there are triggers if anyone has had this happen to them.

I have never been physical abused, but had some friends and even a boyfriend who were verbally a-holes. So for her and her friend Rachel, I can understand how that feels. I know how if feels for friends to drop you after a bad break-up because they believed him over me. I can relate to that. But the other characters I didn’t quite understand. I wonder where they even go from here. The ending while I’m glad she got closure, I left with more questions than answers.

But I can finally cross this off my list.

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