Growing up, I’d heard many great things about Laurie Halse Anderson‘s novel, Speak, but I’d never read it, until this past summer. If I had known how important this story would feel to me, I would have read it years ago.
You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.
-Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak
As I was first reading Melinda’s story, I didn’t quite get it. I felt like her train of thought jumped around too much, and didn’t quite connect. After a while of reading, though, I began to realize – that’s exactly the way I was as a Freshman in high school. My thoughts were usually jumbled and overwhelmed, and anyone trying to read my mind would have given up quickly. After I realized that, and put myself back into the mindset of my teenage self, I enjoyed the book much more thoroughly.
Melinda Sordino is a freshman in high school. In middle school, she had wonderful, close friends, and was usually happy. During the summer before she started high school, she was at a party with her friends, and without telling anyone why, she called the police, and they came and shut it down. After that, her friends stopped talking to her, and she withdrew.
It alludes to what happened a lot throughout the story, but doesn’t tell the reader outright until almost the end. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the main reason I knew what happened after just a couple of chapters was that I had experienced the same thing – being a victim of sexual assault – in college.
When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.
The entire story focuses around Melinda trying to find her voice to tell people what happened – especially when one of her former best friends begins dating her attacker.
The story kept me on the edge of my seat, silently urging Melinda to open up and tell someone, no matter how bad she imagined the consequences to be. A trauma of that magnitude is almost impossible to bear in silence. The sad thing is, too many sexual assault survivors never speak a word.
No matter who you are, read this book. Unless you have experienced what it’s like to try and find your voice after being a victim of sexual assault or rape, you can never know how difficult it is. But Melinda’s story brings you right into the mind of someone who knows.
A little kid asks my dad why that man is chopping down the tree.
Dad: He’s not chopping it down. He’s saving it. Those branches were long dead from disease. All plants are like that. By cutting off the damage you make it possible for the tree to grow again. You watch – by the end of summer, this tree will be the strongest on the block.