Monday, November 19, 2012

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Speaks:
I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn't go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don't have anyone to sit with.
I am Outcast.
The kids behind me laugh so hard I know they're laughing about me. I can't help myself. I turn around. It's Rachel, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing clothes that most definitely did not come from the EastSide Mall. Rachel Bruin, my ex-best friend. She stares at something above my left ear. Words climb up my throat. This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn't make fun of my bedroom. If there was anyone in the entire galaxy I am dying to tell what really happened, it's Rachel. My throat burns.
Her eyes meet mine for a second. "I hate you," she mouths silently.

~Print copy (Platinum Edition, from the library), 198 pages
Published: 1999 by Penguin (I believe platinum edition is published 2006, with added content at the end)

I've read this book several times, so this "review" is really an explanation of why I love it so much.

First of all, let me explain, since that "summary" is really a quote from the book, put on the back of the book. Melinda is a ninth grader, starting the school year with everyone hating her because she called the cops on a summer party.

But she had good reason to. I won't get into that. I'll just tell you it was traumatic, and that this book is mostly her journey to healing from this experience, speaking up about it.

It really is a touching story. It's written lyrically, the sort of way I think, and has a strong voice throughout. It is packed with emotion, the good stuff that makes you hurt along with the character. And the characters - a set of unique and yet still typical people. That is quite the compliment; what I really mean is that they seem like real people, but they are still unique enough to like anyways.

This is not one of those books where you sympathize with the bad guy. There's good reason, too. This simple equation -- unlikeable bad guy + his unlikeable actions = good plot fodder -- is what spurs this book along. Pretty much the entire point of this book, really.

This book... it has that spark. That something. It really connected with me. You take an ordinary girl, damage her, and watch her heal. It is about strength in the face of weakness. It's resonating story. Not many people could pull off a story like this, on such a hard topic - but Laurie Halse Anderson manages it.

Overall, I recommend this book. Definitely. I've read it three times in three years, which with my TBR list is rarer than dragons. Five stars.

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