Contemporary Realistic Fiction: Speak

8 Aug




Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.


“We fall into clans:  Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Goths and Shredders.  I am clanless.”

As Melinda Sordino beigns her freshman year of high school there is one thing she is sure of- she is unwelcome.  She has put on weight, she doesn’t fit in any of her clothes, she has stopped brushing her hair and she has done the unthinkable… she called the cops on one of the biggest parties of the summer.

Melinda is nobody.  She doesn’t speak.  She hides in bathrooms and janitors closets just to get away, to be alone.  It isn’t just school.  She has stopped talking to her parents and has lost all of her friends.  The only thing that she’s finds solace in is her art class, a place where students can do their own thing and listen to the radio in silence.  Maybe she should tell someone what happened.  Why?  No one would listen.  No one would care.

Laurie Anderson masterfully develops the story of Melinda Sordino, a teenage girl navigating high school just like any other girl but this girl has a secret, a dark secret that leaves her silent and distant from the world around her.  Will she ever tell?  Will she ever get the strength to speak?  What unfolds is a journey of trauma and healing, of comedy and sadness and a story that is an inspiration to any young teenager with secrets to be told.



Laurie Anderson creates an absolutely compelling, fabulously written tale of teenage life and trauma of a young girl in this contemporary realistic fiction.  Melinda is funny and relatable, detailing language and thoughts that are common of anyone that has ever attended high school.


“The room does not smell like apple.  It smells like frog juice, a cross between a nursing home and potato salad.  The Back Row pays attention.  Cutting dead frogs is cool.”

“It is easier to floss with barbed wire than admit you like someone in middle school.”


However, woven into the humor and realism is a very real story of teenage rape, peer pressure and depression.  Melinda lives through the torment of her peers who only know half of the story, and she watches as her attacker is doted upon by her former best friend.

“Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings.  How can I not find them?  They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes.  I squeeze my eyes shut.  Jeans that fit, that’s a good start… I will make myself normal.”


This is an absolutely incredible story of honesty and strength in the face of a terrible act of violence.

*Note this book has been banned due to content in several districts.


An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last. — The Horn Book, starred review

Melinda’s sarcastic wit, honesty, and courage make her a memorable character whose ultimate triumph will inspire and empower readers. —Booklist, starred review

The plot is gripping and the characters are powerfully drawn…its raw and unvarnished look…will be hard for readers to forget. — Kirkus Reviews, pointer review

Awards for Speak:
A 2000 Printz Honor Book
A 1999 National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
A 1999 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
Winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite Award
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title



*lesson plans for high school:;


*interview with Laurie Anderson on the banning of Speak:




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