Last week was Banned Book Week as celebrated by the American Library Association. One of the "Banned Books" that I kept hearing about was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
This is an amazing book! It is categorized as "Young Adult Fiction", but this is something everyone should read. If you are in high school, if you ever been to high school, if you know anyone who is or has ever been in high school you most definitely should read this book. Now is when I promise that I will try very hard to avoid spoilers. It's not easy because I have so much I want to say about this book.
I suspect the title is "Speak" because that is exactly what the main character, Melinda Sordino, can't do. She can't speak. Well, she can, but there are certain words she just can't get out. She endures a horrible trauma before we meet her and the book details her first year of high school trying to deal with that trauma and all the additional typical pains of high school-dom. You know what I'm talking about: the constant fear of being the odd-girl out; of having no one with whom to eat lunch; of having a whole group of friends one minute and none the next.
This book is for the girl in every one of us who didn't feel good enough- and it was all of us. We all felt it, no matter our actual standing in the high school hierarchy. This book tells that girl that it will all be okay and you can survive it. But this book is also for that other girl inside of us- the one who couldn't see the pain in another girl's eyes as we laughed at her along with everyone else. This book tells us that we have no idea what someone else has been through or why they are the way they are. This book shows the need for compassion.
I loved this book. I borrowed it from the library, but I have already ordered my own copy and one for someone else. I will be reading it again and I'm sure I will recommend it over and over again. This absolutely should be required reading in high school...or maybe even in middle school in preparation.
Now about the book banning thing- some jerk in Missouri thinks Speak is soft-core porn. He threw a big fit at a school board meeting and demanded it be banned. I'm not sure he ever read the book because when I read it, I kept waiting for it to get more graphic. Guess what? It never did. The reader knows what happens, but it's never described. Actually, I think this book is pretty tame as far as that goes. I would have no problem giving this book to my 14-year-old step-daughter or to my own daughter when she enters high school.
This is a book that should be read. I hope you will read it and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.