Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson ★★

Speak2.5 Stars
This is an issue book, a book about a terrible thing, and how one person copes with it. I pretty much knew what the unspeakable thing was going in. It wasn't really hard to figure out even before I started, but I didn't feel like this book was about the "what happened", but rather that it was about the "what happens next". In a way, it worked for me, but in others it definitely did not.

I felt a little like Melinda's art teacher, wanting more life and honesty to shine through. Some parts were really good, poignant and realistic... but they were the wrong parts. The parts I wanted the most depth and honesty from were the ones dealing with what happened, with the loss of everyone Melinda could confide in, the inability to make people see her pain. I wanted those things to speak to me, and I feel like other aspects of the book were louder, more focused on. Melinda's sarcasm and wry sense of humor, even if it's just inside her head, for instance. Her observation of the social cliques and school were right on. I liked her voice, her sardonic viewpoint, but I wanted less of that and more of her coping with what happened to her. No... I take that back. I didn't want less of that, I wanted it to relate more to what she was going through. It felt like being inside ANY sarcastic highschool freshmen's head.

The "what happened" part is almost unimportant, except that it's the catalyst for this story. It's supposedly the thing that silences Melinda... but I don't really get that. I can understand her fear, but I don't feel like it changed her much otherwise, and it just seems "off" to me, somehow.

It's the little things that make me feel this way, that there's not enough contrast between "before-Melinda" and "after-Melinda". Her room not having its own Melinda personality and resonance, her routine post-it note communication with her family, her thinking about what her friends will think of a boy paying attention to her before thinking about what SHE thinks of a boy paying attention to her... It's like she has no personality of her own. So her silence doesn't have the power I wanted it to have.

I wanted her silence to speak volumes. I wanted to see the huge changes in her, the unignorable wrongness of her tongue being trapped by fear. I wanted to see all of that and more... even if it was only for my benefit and nobody else around her could see it, if that makes sense. We're the ones in Melinda's head, seeing her world through her eyes and living her life along with her. I wanted to really feel it... and what I felt was more like a very introverted girl than a victim.

When Melinda finally found her voice, I wanted more resolution. I wanted to see the repercussions, for everyone involved, and for Melinda to really find strength and use it... and I felt like that was all kind of glossed over in a "who's the outcast now?" kind of highschool way. Really? No criminal charges? No counseling? Nothing? I wanted strength and inspiration to come pouring out of the last pages of this story, but instead, the story just ends. We can extrapolate and hope that Melinda gets there, but we're technically on our own.

I had very high expectations for this book and I wanted to love it. While I enjoyed some aspects of it, the aspects that I really wanted to shine just didn't. I wanted more, I expected more, and unfortunately, I just feel like this one fell really short of what I'd hoped it would be.

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  1. I can see why you would give this a 2.5 rating. I think if I was to review this book based on just its literary merit alone, I might give it 2.5-3 stars. However I think the reason why this book is 'important' and has been loved by so many throughout the years is in fact because of its actual effect on its readers. I know many (not personally) whose lives have been moved by this book, so just for that reason, I would rate it 5 stars.

    Your points for giving it your rating is very accurate though as technically I feel the same way.

  2. I don't think I did review this based on literary merit alone, though. I didn't really have much complaint there - I thought that the writing was choppy and staccato, but it fit Melinda.

    My complaints are about the emotional aspect. It didn't really affect me at all. I liked Melinda's sardonic point of view, and thought that her observations on highschool life were pretty accurate... but that, to me, had almost nothing to do with what happened to her, or what she was going through. It could have been anyone... any teen ostracized for any reason, and that anyoneness overwhelmed the 'issue' aspect of the book for me.

    What happened to her was like a string running through the story, but pull the string out and the rest is still pretty much intact. It didn't have much impact - there was no real change in Melinda, at least in my opinion, and there was no real resolution or healing or anything, nothing to wow me and make me feel like this is an important message for girls, which is what the book SHOULD be. In fact, I think it's kind of the WRONG message for girls. Bottle it up and cope by yourself unless you see the same thing about to happen to someone else? Then once you speak up about it everything will be just fine? No. Sorry. I just didn't get this one.

    I'm always happy if a book works for others, but this one just didn't do anything for me.

  3. Speak: A powerful story about a high school student getting started in her new life after an act she did to destroyed it. In the book speak, Melinda, a teenage girl who was trying to cope in her life after the incident that made her call 911, became silent. Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak, was able to capture the real situations of teenagers, girls and boys, during their high school years. In the beginning of the story speak, Melinda was a quiet girl who feels like everyone around her, especially her friends begin to shun her. Desperately seeking for friends, Melinda comes upon a new girl Heather. Melinda feels that she doesn't want to be alone and wants to have a thought of somebody being right next to her other than her parents.

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