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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak 
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson 
Genre: Fiction - Young Adult 
Finished: May 28, 2009 

Melinda Sordino has just started high school, but she is alone, friendless, and an outcast. A party that she attended was busted by the cops after she called them. Since then, her peers have ostracized her and her friends have abandoned her. Only and unfortunately for Melinda, no one asked her why she called the cops. After a few beers, she was led into the woods alone by a popular, well liked older boy and raped. Since then, her confidence has bottomed out, depression has hit, and she has told no one about it. It is near impossible for her to make new friends and she loathes to be close to people. Melinda's assault is a secret that she carries within herself, the only outside signs her anti-social behavior and the bloody lips she continuously chews at. Melinda cannot speak and she cannot tell anyone what happened to her. She has no friends to tell, after all, and no teachers who make her feel comfortable enough to confide in. To make matters worse, she doesn't feel that she can talk to her parents about what happens. Left to deal with the rape and following traumas alone, she withdraws. 

This book was unbelievably emotional. Rape and sexual assault are very serious and devastating crimes, and ones that a lot of people keep inside and never tell a soul about. It is hard to know what someone who has been through rape and sexual assault thinks and feels if not experienced personally. Being able to peek into Melinda's head, to see and live the processes of depression and isolation she feels throughout, is very emotional. Speak is not a book one should read if they want light reading. Melinda's reactions to the boy who raped her when she meets him in school are particularly hard to read--- you can almost feel the sickness and fear coming off of her in waves. 

Speak is about more than just rape and sexual assault. It is also about how difficult it is to be a teenager. In a lot of ways, Melinda is like any other girl her age who suffers from low self-esteem, wants to fit in and be liked, but has no idea how. I recall moments when she considered how much she wanted friends, Valentine's, and the spirit to enjoy simple things. What else is Speak about? Depression. I saw a lot of myself in Melinda, which made this book even more painful to read. The part where she went into the closet, stuffed her mouth full of cloth, and screamed until she couldn't scream anymore almost brought me to tears. I cannot count the number of times I have wanted to do just that. I think in some way, most of use can relate to some aspect of Melinda's personality and struggle. It's hard to know why Melinda chose to stay silent for so long. Was it shame? The feeling that no one would understand? Fear? A desire to hide from the reality of what happened, that if it is never spoken out loud it would never full form into a real moment? Whatever her reason, over the course of the school year, Melinda slowly transforms. At first, she sinks and bottoms out. Eventually, summoning up her strength through a series of painful and altering experiences, she rises out of the hole she has been slipping into since the night of the party. It can hardly be said that the book is inspirational because it is hard to find inspiration in someone's pain, but I am happy that Melinda found her voice to speak up. It shows others that they can, too, and that to admit to such things is not to admit weakness.

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