Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kid Konnection - Review: Speak

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today, I are going to share with you my review for an extremely powerful book that I recently read.

Summary: Made a social outcast for phoning police from an end-of-summer teen drinking party, Melinda rarely speaks through her ninth grade year. Isolated, bullied and emotionally tormented, this first person narrative communicates pain, and honesty about the high-school experience. Searing and riveting, with poignant and funny moments, the truth for her 911 call is eventually revealed, she was raped. -- Scholastic

Wow! I don't even know where to start with the novel SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I have read many reviews about SPEAK over the past few years, so I was kind of expecting it to be a powerful book. I was aware of the subject matter, and I knew that I would probably find it very disturbing; but I felt like I needed to read it no matter how uncomfortable it might make me. I couldn't put this book down and actually read it one night after the kids went to bed. This book was INTENSE! And it was also very, very good!

I don't know if it's because I'm a mother (but I really don't think so), but my heart just broke for Melinda. I moved around a lot as a kid and I didn't always make friends easily, but I never felt ostracized nor was I treated as poorly as Melinda was by her "supposed" friends. It was just so tragic -- I can't even put into words how gut-wrenching this book was for me! At times, I thought I could actually feel Melinda's pain -- what a great testament to the author!

Melinda is definitely going to be one of those characters that stays in my mind for a very long time. The story is told in Melinda's voice and I felt as if I truly got to know and understand Melinda. It was a very unique perspective because, as a reader, I actually got to know Melinda and her feelings better than her friends, teachers, and family (because she wasn't really speaking to any of them.) I also appreciated how Ms. Anderson portrayed Melinda's pain and even her need to stop talking -- it was very believable to me. Melinda felt as if her voice didn't mean anything to anyone in her life, and she just had to cope the best she could on her own.

While the book was deeply disturbing for me because of Melinda's anguish as well as the cruelty inflicted upon her, I did think the book ended on a hopeful note. I think that's what made me love this book even more, and I know the ending of the novel is what will stick with me. I love that Ms. Anderson showed that with the right people in a teenager's life and the right questions asked, it is not too late for a teenager to find their way. As I read this novel, I just knew that Melinda was a strong young woman, and I really wanted her to persevere through the horrific things that happened to her.

SPEAK isn't the first Laurie Halse Anderson novel that I've read -- I read WINTERGIRLS (my review) almost a year ago. I loved that book too (although love is a strange word to say about such disturbing books!) Somehow, Ms. Anderson is very in-tune with troubled teenagers, and I think she captures their emotions and actions perfectly. I will certainly be reading more of Ms. Anderson's novels in the very near future because I think she is such a terrific writer.

Booking Daughter is entirely too young to read SPEAK right now, but I do look forward to sharing this book with her in the future. It might be even make a good selection for our mother-daughter book club (way) down the road. There are so many things to delve into in this novel, and I think discussing this novel might be a great opportunity to bring up difficult topics with our girls. Plus, I'd love to hear what teenage girls think about this novel.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books, please leave a comments as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

17 comments:

brizmus said...

I've got to read this. I've had it on my "find a way to buy cheaply or get from the library" list for a very long time, but maybe I should move it up to my "find a way to buy" list. It really sounds wonderful!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've not read anything from Anderson, but boy have I heard about her! She has certainly made a name for herself in the literary world. I think these would be too intense for my daughter as well, but maybe in a couple of years.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I too have heard so much about this author but have not yet read anything by her. She does pick some pretty intense subjects!

Beth F said...

So glad to know that Speak is as powerful as Wintergirls (which is on my top 2009 reads list). She is intense but leads the reader into understanding.

bermudaonion said...

I thought Speak was a fantastic book, too. Having watch Vance grow up, I'm sad to say that I do think kids today are crueler than they were in our day. Not all kids of course, but in general. Great review!

Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

I read Speak last year and I had a similar reaction. How do you love something that is so depressing? Anderson somehow makes it possible with her incredible writing and the hopeful ending.

I actually just got the DVD in the mail yesterday from Netflix. I have wanted to see it since I found out it existed.

Lisa said...

My 14yo loved this book. She's never been much of a reader but this one convinces her that books might be something she could like.

Carrie said...

Wow, this book DOES sound intense. It sounds like something I would approach just like you - not sure if I would want to read it and be disturbed. But you definitely convinced me that you loved it. =)

By the way, you prompted me to hop out and by the Hotel at the Corner book which I'm looking forward to diving into!

Dana said...

I read this book as a teenager and it became one of my favorites. I completely agree with what you said about the character of Melinda and how she was portrayed. Perhaps I should pick up something else by Laurie Halse Anderson sometime!

Sherrie said...

Hi Julie,
This sounds like an awesome book. It has gone on my list of books to read this year. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

Sherrie
Just Books
http://sherriesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/01/kids-konnection_23.html

Kristen said...

I read this one years ago, long before my kids were anywhere close to the right ages to read it and I remember being completely and totally horrified by the parents in here. I know that their portrayal made Melinda that much more of a character but I spent a lot of time reading angry with her parents (or their lack).

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Speak is such a wonderful book, and an important one, too. I wish it had been around when I was Melinda's age.

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

What a beautifully written review! This book is on my daughter's bookshelf -- you've inspired me to walk up there and snatch it. :-)

Jenna said...

This is one of my absolute favorite YA novels. I read it with the high school book club I run after school- it brought out a LOT of emotion. Very powerful

Beth said...

I also found this very powerful. I think it was my first Anderson. I have Wintergirls out from the library now.

Alison said...

Great review. I have never seen this book or author before, but both are on my radar now.

Cindy Hudson said...

I read speak with the girls in my mother-daughter book club when they were finishing 8th grade and about to start high school. It was really powerful for them to give voice to some of their concerns about the changes that lay ahead for them. We had a great discussion about lots of issues. I think the timing was perfect too. If the girls would have been younger, I don't think it would have meant as much to their current worries. It's a great book for moms and daughters to read together.