Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
From Day One of high school, Melinda is untouchable, a pariah. She committed the most heinous of high-school crimes--called the cops on a summer party and caused a number of fellow students to get arrested, or at least in serious trouble. Her friends have deserted her and nobody else will get near her. As the school year goes on, she finds herself less and less able to talk. Even her art class, which offers a non-vocal alternative, isn't any help as her year-long assignment goes down the tubes. Her only refuge is an abandoned janitor's closet where she goes to be alone.
But ultimately, Melinda has no choice but to speak.
Okay, I know what you're saying . . . especially those of you who are total YA lit whizzes. Why the heck are you blogging this book, Bibliovore? It's not like we don't know about it! There's even a movie!
But like Melinda, I find I've just got to talk. I'd always heard about Speak as one of those towering classics of modern YA lit, with the result that I didn't have any idea what it was about or what kind of book it was. I wasn't entirely sure I would like it, but I instantly found myself sucked into the bitter, harrowing, and at times deliciously snarky narrative.
While Melinda can't talk to anyone in her life, she can and does pour it all out to us. Everything from her opinions on the constant changes in the school mascot ("Home of the Trojans didn't send a strong abstinence message, so they've transformed us into the Blue Devils") to her near-incoherence in the presence of her attacker is opened up to the reader. Speech and silence seem to feature in every relationship in her life, and the choice between one or the other at certain points directs the narrative.
In the end, I forgot it was a Classic Novel and just sank into the story. And that may be the best definition of a classic yet.