Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson + Banned Books Week

Originally Published in: 22/08/1999
10th Anniversary edition published 19/03/2009
Genre: Young Adult, Realism
Read for Banned Books Week.
Publisher: Puffin
Bought Book Online

Laurie Halse Anderson's award-winning, highly acclaimed, and controversial novel about a teenager who chooses not to speak rather than to give voice to what really happened to her marks ten years in print with this special anniversary edition. Bonus material created for this edition includes a new introduction and afterword from the author, resources, and discussion guide. Will also include a preview of Anderson's newest book, Wintergirls. The quintessential edition for all fans of this powerfully moving book.

"Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows that this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In this powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

I read this book for two reasons. 1. I liked the movie and wanted to see what the book was like, 2. I wanted to read a banned book for banned books week. After finishing this novel I am saddened by the fact that this novel will never fully be appreciated just for being a well written novel about an important social issue and instead will constantly be referred to as "That banned book". It is such a pity that some books can't just be appreciated for what they are because some fool decided that it wasn't appropriate for teenagers.

The main character Melinda speaks in first person. You can tell that she is wounded. You can tell something traumatic has happened in her life. You can tell she is depressed. No she does not cry all the time and say "poor me, poor me..." repeatedly. No, she tries to stay strong and secretive. At this point we don't know what has happened to Melinda (Unless of course you have seen the movie). For a large part of the novel the reader is left uninformed. This keeps my attention. That and the sarcasm, purposeful spelling errors and fear that is Melinda Sordino.

The writing was really entertaining. There are parallels with "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. The same kind of writing, except younger. It was probably not the most literarily correct writing, but it was honest. It was appalling and ridiculing and sad and hilarious. 'Speak' was written in some places like it was a poem. At the beginning of the tenth anniversary edition there is a poem built up by Laurie Halse-Anderson made up of bits from letters she has received from fans over the ten years her book has been published. I'm glad I read this edition because I think the poem really added depth to the story. It showed me that even though 'Speak' wasn't necessarily true, there are many people out there like Melinda that have suffered through her ordeal.

I think this book is great in the fact that so many people can identify with it. It wasn't just the fact that Melinda had been sexually assaulted (sorry for the spoiler, but seriously the books been out for ten years even I new what it was about before I watched the movie) that people felt they could identify with her. There were other aspects of the story that interested people. People who had felt depressed, people who felt like an outcast, people struggling to find out who they are, people who have suffered through some traumatic event and are trying to piece together their lives, People with deep dark secrets... This book has been there for those people when they needed to know they weren't alone. It encouraged them to speak up and It educated them about a very big issue.

I think the book was much better than the movie because it included more thoughts and events that the movie missed. Books really are better than movies most of the time because there a so many more things included. I don't hate the movie though. I think Kristen Stewart did a great job. She was the perfect person for the role and this was one of the few movies that did a voiceover and actually executed it.

I have no idea why this book was banned. The actual rape was the most least descriptive thing I have read in my whole life. The main character is depressed, but the writing is not actually depressing in tone. I'm guessing some loony parent just cracked up because they heard their child was reading a book about rape. I wonder if they had even bothered to find out anymore. Did they read the book? Sexual assault is something that needs to be talked about. If Melinda had read "Speak" would she have gone to that party? Would she have spoken out?

Overall I think this book was wonderful. It was a little open ended, but i like that in a book. I think it's ridiculous that this book was even challenged in the first place. This book should be made a compulsory reading for young people. I give this book 5/5 stars. I definitely recommend the 10th Anniversary Edition to readers who want full insight into the fan-base and author behind the story.

Banned Books Week
The Last Month of September Each Year.

A week to celebrate free speech amongst fellow readers and authors. To question why books are banned or challenged. And, to be a rebel and read a book that was deemed unsuitable for some silly reason or another.

Some people believe that some books contain unsuitable content. This can be content of a religious, political, sexual, violent or wrongful nature. Some books are banned to protect the innocence of children, whilst others are banned due to some small issue that someone who hasn't read the book has a problem with the book.

Teachers, Parents, Grandparents, Principals, Politicians, Librarians, Religious Leaders and Critics are the most common to people to challenge a book because of it's content.

In Schools, Libraries, States, Countries etc.

Read a banned book on Banned Books Week. Read Banned Books more frequently. Contact your national censorship or classification board to let them know which book you would like to save and why. Like the 'Banned Books Week' Facebook Page. Fighting for Banned books is fighting for freedom of speech. Fighting for real literature about real occurrences and real issues

-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
-The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
-Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson

Your Favourite Blogger,


Anna said...

i read speak earlier this year after reading that horrible wall street journal article "darkness to visable" i'm not sure if it was mentioned in the article or in one of the responses. i got it out from the school library and LOVED it. it stayed on my mind, and i still think of it and remember reading it so clearly. i related to it, i thought it was going to be confronting, or graphic, but it was gentle. sad yes, but it had a fragile understanding quality.
i've suffered from depression, and the way she was fighting was so familiar, she was just battling something a lot bigger.
if anything this book helped me, reminded me that my voice doesn't have to be loud.
i loved the poem too :)

Natalievintagegirl said...

I think those big shot book banners need to realise that books are there to educate people, not harm them.

Anna said...

honestly, i'm yet to meet a person who's been harmed by a book.

Natalievintagegirl said...

It would only hurt someone if they were hit with it.

UK said...

This story is unbelievebly powerful and realistic. it is so true to life! Anderson makes you feel like your sharing this girls pain. I read the book four years ago and still remember it, it was just that good. I seroiusly recommend this novel to everybody. Especially parents for their daughters. Trust me it will make them think twice before going to parties with their friends or drinking.

Loraine said...

You have a nice review! Here's mine: Have a nice day!

__ said...

Hi, OK, on page 130 did the author really mean to spell "sculpture" as "scupture" or is that a typo. I see you say that the author uses "purposeful spelling mistakes" so I was wondering if this was one.

Natalie_vintage_girl said...

Honestly I cannot say. It has been so long since I wrote that review and I can not remember much about the spelling errors in the book. I can assume though that because the main character is thirteen years old and telling the story through her voice that at times she would have made errors on purpose the way that some teenagers do now. I actually think i remember some sort of rhyme-y sing-song type writing where she does in fact make errors. I cannot say for certain what is a typo and what isn't, because it had been so long since I read it. I find that even some editions of my favourite classics have typos. Human error is sometimes unavoidable and I don't think that makes this novel any less remarkable.