There is this thing that happens to many adolescent girls. It often happens in middle school but sometimes waits till high school. Somehow a rumor gets started and you suddenly become a pariah. No one will be seen talking to you. Doesn’t matter if the rumor is grounded in reality. It only matters if people believe it because if they do you become alone in a sea of other adolescents whispering as they pass you by. It usually lasts about one to two weeks. Then it dies down and the silent treatment shifts to its newest victim.
What happens to Melinda Sordindo in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a little bit different.
Over the summer, Melinda calls the cops on an end-of -school-year party. The book starts at the beginning of the next school year. Melinda is not only a pariah, she is the object of the whole school’s rage. Even those who weren’t at the party had a friend there. Everyone hates her. No one speaks to her.
Melinda doesn’t speak back either.
She says a few words here and there. Just enough to get by. Mostly Melinda just thinks, and it is though her sardonically witty thoughts that we learn about why Melinda called the cops on that party.
The reason isn’t a pretty one. In fact, nothing is pretty in this book. Melinda thoughts are a raw, unpolished mix of fury and fear. Almost like slam-poety juxtaposed with teenage angst. While it isn’t pretty, while there is no sense of euphony this tale, it is necessary that her story get told. It is necessary that we feel, that we know how damaging “not speaking” is.
For everyone who could not “speak” this is an important read but I cannot recommend it without warning. While I think it is important that as many people read Speak as possible, there are some Trigger Warning themes present in the book. If you are easily triggered please proceed with caution. It is a strong and powerful book but similarly brutal at times.