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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review:Speak

Premise:A depressed teen faces the aftermath of calling the cops on a party last summer.

Author:Laurie Halse Anderson


Notes:Cover taken from Laurie Halse Anderson's website.

Pros:The protagonist.

Cons:Useless parents. Stereotypes.

As you might imagine, calling the cops on a party last summer has not made Melinda Sordino popular with her schoolmates. Now, she's alone and friendless trying to survive.

Reading stories about depressed characters tend to be interesting and a bit disturbing. Melinda talks about washing her face to nothing, screams into jackets, and wants to tell someone what happened that made her this way but can't. She is well-written and in serious need of a hug.

One of the book's problems lies with Melinda's parents, particularly her mother. She doesn't seem to think her daughter needs help; she just wants attention. The worst of this happens when Melinda scratches up her wrist. Mom sees it and says "I don't have time for this." Then she leaves a book on the back of the toilet about how suicide is for cowards. Seriously? Your kid might be thinking about killing herself and you can't be bothered to get her help?

Another negative is the fact that several groups are stereotyped. Jocks are violent, cheerleaders are promiscuous and throw wild parties, environmentalists don't want to name the football team Tigers, animal rights activists believe owning fish is immoral, and so forth. Besides Melinda, don't expect a whole lot of likable characters.

Overall, it's not bad for a first novel. If you can get past the obnoxious background characters, think about this one.

12/23/2016:Making the content warnings smoother and less wordy.

Sex:There are sex references throughout. Cheerleaders chant a cheer involving the words "horny hornets", and shake their rears with the fans. A teenager models a bikini, while the photographer tells he she looks sexy and to think of boys.
Melinda thinks a female athlete must be too strong to care about changing bras in public or people making comments about her body. She also notes naked ladies must be painted more than naked men because most artists are male. While it's not sexual, it's worth noting Melinda gets into a car with her teacher. Bathroom graffiti rumors a girl to be promiscuous. Another thread warns against going out with a certain guy because he doesn't keep his hands to himself. A girl takes off her shirt to wash it.
Couples make out. Rumors spread about matching tattoos on a few people's butts. Most of the girls avoid walking by the janitors' lounge because of the stares and whistles. Melinda declines a boy's invitation to his home because she's afraid he'll try something.

As you may have guessed, the big Spoiler is that Andy Evans raped Melinda at the party, taking her virginity. He later tries to rape her again, but fails. End Spoilers

Violence:Melinda picks up a bunch of minor injuries, some from bullies, others self-inflicted. Her thoughts frequently involve violence. She also falls down three bleachers, faints at a different point, and hits her head (which requires stitches). She talks about a movie she saw that featured a woman getting most of her skin burned off. She cuts herself by accident, often drawing blood or needing stitches. When she goes to a hospital, she sees a man with blood seeping through a bandage.
A guy attacks and attempts to rape a girl, who fends him off with broken glass. Mentions are made of sports injuries and a female player who believes in "kill or maim" to win. The ecology club protests naming the football team Tigers by printing posters of skinned tigers.

Language:"Crap", "a**hole", "r*tard", "bulls**t", "freaking", "b**ch, p*ss, d**n, and b****rd. Sometimes, characters swear, but we don't actually hear what they said. When the Spanish class finds out "linda" means pretty, they mock Melinda by calling her Me-no-linda.

Drugs & Alcohol:Smoking and drinking are mentioned, sometimes done by teenagers. Kids drink stomach medicine on a stressful day.

Spiritual:Mr. Freeman, the art teacher, tells his students art is where the soul is found. When Melinda tries to pick a topic other than trees, he tells her she has already chosen her destiny and can't change it.
Christianity is alluded to a few times. Girls are called goddesses. Before becoming an outcast, Melinda and her friends went out on Halloween as witches, then held a candle in front of an old mirror to see their futures. A girl experiments with Islam and wears a head scarf. An attractive guy is called a Greek god.

What were your thoughts?

© 2014 by M.R.R.

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