Book Review: Speak

Very few young adult books have come under as much scrutiny and censorship as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, yet very few books have also had the transformative power that so many readers, parents, and educators have seen after people read this book. No Banned Books Week celebration would be complete with reference to one of the most popular and controversial debut young adult novels, Speak.

Why was this book banned?
I don't really know why this book was ever banned. While it deals with heavy subject matter, it handles serious issues very tastefully and intelligently. As recently as a few weeks ago, Speak was being challenged again by a Professor Wesley Scroggins, who claims that the novel is "pornographic." For more on this recent challenge, read an extremely well-written article on the author Laurie Halse Anderson's website here:

I couldn't find a concrete list on the ALA website, but some of the reasons for banning Speak include: Unsuited to Age Group, Sexually Explicit, Violence, Underage Drinking.

What is Speak about?
Speak is about Melinda Sordino, a girl who goes to a "high school party" a few weeks before she starts her freshman year, but when she calls the police to apparently bust up the party for drinking, everyone turns against her and she stops speaking.

She becomes depressed and withdrawn, skipping classes and isolating herself from making friends. Eventually, Melinda finds unlikely solace in her art class, where she can find a release for her emotions. However, there is more that happened that night at the party than what everyone thinks and it will take a lot of strength and courage for Melinda to finally speak up.

Why is Speak worth reading?
I knew what Speak was about before reading it, so much of the surprise about what really happened to make Melinda stop speaking was lost on me, but I still enjoyed the novel. Although the main character, Melinda, doesn't speak, she has very original and vivid thoughts, making her a very interesting character to read about. The writing is also very beautiful and easy to follow.

Most importantly, Speak deals with important issues that aren't always addressed in young adult literature, and is a definite must-read for both teens and adults, both male and female. The author gives a very honest description of high school life and family life for someone who feels like a loner with no one who understands them, which is something most people probably feel at least once  in their lives. Speak isn't my favorite young adult book, but it is such an important novel and told with such beautiful language, that I still recommend this book to everyone.

-- Renée