Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Flashback: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Books don't have to be new to be deserving of a review! On Fridays I flashback to some of my favorite books of all-time.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

No one is speaking to Melinda.  Sure, they talk about her, but they don't talk to her.  Not after she called the cops and broke up the party.  Not that anyone cared enough to find out why.  That's fine; she isn't speaking to them either.  She hasn't really spoken to anyone: her friends, her parents, her teachers.  It's not that she's angry, though she is.  She just can't.  When she tries, her throat clenches up and her mouth goes dry.  Her freshman year in high school wasn't supposed to be like this.  As the months go by and first marking period turns into second and then third, her isolation persists and the only place where Melinda finds comfort and solace is in her art.  Through it, she can express herself in ways that words cannot.  She knows that things could be better if she could only find the words, if she could build up the courage to speak.

Melinda may not be talking, but through her internal narrative the reader understands exactly what she's thinking and feeling.  She's bitter.  And broken.  She's sarcastic.  And witty.  She sees right through all of the pandering and pretending that is so rampant in high school.  Without saying a word, her character's voice is stronger and more compelling than almost any I've ever read.  I laughed out loud.  I shed a tear.  I shook my head in disbelief and clenched my fists in anger.  Laurie Halse Anderson has captured the inner-workings of a teen's mind and heart and given the reader something to really enjoy.

Sometimes, trying to figure out which book to review next can be a challenge (particularly when it's for a feature where you review favorite older titles).  Deciding to review this week's Friday Flashback title was a given.  How could I justify writing one more post to this blog without reviewing the title that started it all for me: Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak?  Unless you count R.L. Stine's Fear Street series (and I don't), Speak was the first YA novel that I ever read.  At the age of 22.  Back in 2002.  I was working in the Barnes & Noble Children's Department in Princeton, NJ and my friend Andrea (who is now a children's librarian), encouraged me to read a novel from our newly designated "Teen" section.  I'd shelved tons of copies of Speak and the cover looked cool.  Andrea had read and loved it and told me just go ahead and read it.  So I did.  And I loved it.  It started me down the path to YA Lit and becoming a librarian.  Thanks, Andrea!

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