Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA Lit
Page Count: 198
Publication Date: 1999
Apologies for the delay on my May review of Speak. My fiance and I are moving into a new apartment, so the long weekend was dedicated to hauling furniture and boxes into our new home. Without further ado, please enjoy.
***Please note Speak is a book about surviving rape and may be triggering for some readers***
I remember stumbling upon Speak in my middle school library and quickly passing due to the book’s original cover art (I know, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but I was 13). Roughly 12 years later, while on my break at Barnes and Noble, I saw the book again but with a different cover and an Exclusive Edition sticker stuck to the front. I bought the book, brought it home, and let it collect dust for two years.
I knew what Speak was about before I opened the first page. I knew this wasn’t a book I wanted to read but a book I needed to read. As I flew through the chapters, I was reminded of the impactful nature of a well-crafted YA novel.
Writers of adult literature have the luxury of writing long drawn-out chapters with excessive descriptions and subtle symbolism. They’re allowed to be long-winded, fluffy, and over-explanatory when it’s not necessary because their book is written for adult who can take it. YA authors don’t have that luxury. They have to be quick and punchy. Witty but clear. They have to get their messages and meanings across without getting too wrapped up in the art of it because they’re working with the critical and fast-paced minds of teenagers. They have to be captivating and honest from page one– and being able to do that well is an art.
The chapters in Speak are no longer than five pages tops, some not even making it to one and a half. Yet, each chapter pulls you into the angsty confusion of ninth grade while consuming you with the grief, fear, and pain of the main character. The book is an ode to the innocence of childhood and the courage it takes a young girl to start living after being raped at a party the summer before her freshman year of high school.
Once I started Speak, I couldn’t pull myself away from it. It’s a lesson in how to be a better human and not assume you know what’s going on in anyone else’s life but your own. It’s a book that leaves you unsatisfied because you know that even though the main character has found peace, she’s not completely whole– she’s simply ready to start picking up the pieces. It’s a blatant reminder that humanity isn’t good by nature and that silence is never the answer when you see something wrong in the world.
This review does not do Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel any justice. Her story is a poetic and methodical memoir for every girl and every guy that was ever put into a situation where they were silenced by a predator; a rapist; a tormentor. It’s a eulogy for the silenced and a reminder to use your voice even when it feels better to stay quiet.
If you or a friend are in need of any sexual violence resources please, reach out to one of the following:
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE
- End Rape on Campus: endrapeoncampus.org
- Forge: forge-forward.org
- Ignite: deafignite.org
- 1in6: 1in6.org
- National Sexual Violence Resource Council: nsvrc.org
You can purchase Speak here if you are interested in reading. I will be reviewing Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie for the month of June, which you can purchase here if you’d like to read along. The review will be up June 27th. Stay tuned for this month’s florilegium, coming out this Sunday, June 6th.