Friday, 31 May 2013

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Puffin
Released: October 22nd 1999
Pages: 208 (Paperback)

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

I read Wintergirls last year, and I fell in love with not just the storyline, but also Anderson's writing style. Many people commented on my review saying how much they loved Anderson's book, Speak, and after checking it out on Goodreads, I added it to my TBR list immediately. Unfortunately, I finished reading the book feeling very disappointed.

Melinda is a quiet girl who rarely speaks. She cuts class, gets low grades in her lessons, doesn't get on with her parents, and has no friends. However, this is the exact opposite of the person she used to be before the party last summer, but what happened there, nobody but Melinda and one other person knows. As Melinda gets used to life as a lone ninth-grader, she begins to think about what would happen if she started to speak - what would happen if she told the truth?

From the beginning, I could tell where this story was going to go. It was predictable and I knew what was going to happen - but I don't think that was down to Anderson's writing. This book was published in 1999, and since then, more and more books are being published surrounding the issue of rape. I've read quite a few of them, and most follow the same pattern at Speak - so maybe it was so obvious to me because it has been done so many times since?

But aside from the predictability, it wasn't incredibly well-written, either. Some bits reminded me of Anderson's writing in Wintergirls, but most of the time it was pretty mediocre - nothing wowed me; the plot, the pace, the characters...I think the amount of hype surrounding this novel set my expectations too high. I was just overall expecting more.

Melinda was an okay character, but not as the main protagonist. She was very bland, and the image I conjured up of her in my head was a Plain Jane with a blank face - I don't think she was dynamic enough to really capture the reader's attention. I also thought that we didn't get to know any of the secondary characters very well - again, their images in my mind were blank people. Nothing was characterised as well as it could have been.

However, I think one bit of the novel was written impeccably. This may sound morbid or slightly twisted, but the rape scene was fantastic, in the sense that it had me uncomfortable and afraid and squirming. In that moment, the reader and Melinda were one. Anderson made Melinda's pain real, and it really worked effectively. After that, I liked Melinda, as I understood clearly what she had gone through. If only Anderson had written as amazingly as that throughout the entire novel.

Even though most of this review sounds negative, I did enjoy it. There was something unique about it, and I guess that around the time it was published, it was actually pretty outrageous and inspiring, as I don't imagine there were many books out there quite like it. If you're interested in books dealing with tough, realistic issues, then I recommend you picking this up - but there are other books out there similar to this that are written better and are more exciting.
Rating: 3/5

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