Reviews for Speak


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 September 1999
Gr. 8^-12. Having broken up an end-of-summer party by calling the police, high-school freshman Melinda Sordino begins the school year as a social outcast. She's the only person who knows the real reason behind her call: she was raped at the party by Andy Evans, a popular senior at her school. Slowly, with the help of an eccentric and understanding art teacher, she begins to recover from the trauma, only to find Andy threatening her again. Melinda's voice is distinct, unusual, and very real as she recounts her past and present experiences in bitterly ironic, occasionally even amusing vignettes. In her YA fiction debut, Anderson perfectly captures the harsh conformity of high-school cliques and one teen's struggle to find acceptance from her peers. Melinda's sarcastic wit, honesty, and courage make her a memorable character whose ultimate triumph will inspire and empower readers. ((Reviewed September 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Spring
Speaking out at the ""wrong"" time--calling 911 from a teen drinking party--has made Melinda a social outcast; now she barely speaks at all. While her smart and savvy interior narrative slowly reveals the searing pain of that night (she was raped), it also nails the high-school experience cold. Uncannily funny even as it plumbs the darkness, [cf2]Speak[cf1] will hold readers from first word to last.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1999 #5
Speaking out at the "wrong" time-calling 911 from a teen drinking party-has made Melinda a social outcast; now she barely speaks at all. A conversation with her father about their failed Thanksgiving dinner goes as follows: "Dad: 'It's supposed to be soup.' / Me: / Dad: 'It tasted a bit watery, so I kept adding thickener....'/ Me: ." While Melinda's smart and savvy interior narrative slowly reveals the searing pain of that 911 night, it also nails the high-school experience cold-from "The First Ten Lies They Tell You" (number eight: "Your schedule was created with your needs in mind") to cliques and clans and the worst and best in teachers. The book is structurally divided into four marking periods, over which Melinda's grades decline severely and she loses the only friend she has left, a perky new girl she doesn't even like. Melinda's nightmare discloses itself in bits throughout the story: a frightening encounter at school ("I see IT in the hallway....IT sees me. IT smiles and winks"), an artwork that speaks pain. Melinda aches to tell her story, and well after readers have deduced the sexual assault, we feel her choking on her untold secret. By springtime, while Melinda studies germination in Biology and Hawthorne's symbolism in English, and seeds are becoming "restless" underground, her nightmare pushes itself inexorably to the surface. When her ex-best-friend starts dating the "Beast," Melinda can no longer remain silent. A physical confrontation with her attacker is dramatically charged and not entirely in keeping with the tone of the rest of the novel, but is satisfying nonetheless, as Melinda wields a shard of broken glass and finds her voice at last to scream, "No!" Melinda's distinctive narrative employs imagery that is as unexpected as it is acute: "April is humid....A warm, moldy washcloth of a month." Though her character is her own and not entirely mute like the protagonist of John Marsden's So Much to Tell You, readers familiar with both books will be impelled to compare the two girls made silent by a tragic incident. The final words of Marsden's books are echoed in those of Speak, as Melinda prepares to share her experience with a father-figure art teacher: "Me: 'Let me tell you about it.'" An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 September #2
A frightening and sobering look at the cruelty and viciousness that pervade much of contemporary high school life, as real as today's headlines. At the end of the summer before she enters high school, Melinda attends a party at which two bad things happen to her. She gets drunk, and she is raped. Shocked and scared, she calls the police, who break up the party and send everyone home. She tells no one of her rape, and the other students, even her best friends, turn against her for ruining their good time. By the time school starts, she is completely alone, and utterly desolate. She withdraws more and more into herself, rarely talking, cutting classes, ignoring assignments, and becoming more estranged daily from the world around her. Few people penetrate her shell; one of them is Mr. Freeman, her art teacher, who works with her to help her express what she has so deeply repressed. When the unthinkable happens the same upperclassman who raped her at the party attacks her again something within the new Melinda says no, and in repelling her attacker, she becomes whole again. The plot is gripping and the characters are powerfully drawn, but it is its raw and unvarnished look at the dynamics of the high school experience that makes this a novel that will be hard for readers to forget. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Library Journal Reviews 1999 December #1
Gr 8 Up-A ninth grader becomes a social pariah when she calls the police to bust a summer bash and spends the year coming to terms with the secret fact that she was raped during the party. A story told with acute insight, acid wit, and affecting prose. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 September #2
In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager. Divided into the four marking periods of an academic year, the novel, narrated by Melinda Sordino, begins on her first day as a high school freshman. No one will sit with Melinda on the bus. At school, students call her names and harass her; her best friends from junior high scatter to different cliques and abandon her. Yet Anderson infuses the narrative with a wit that sustains the heroine through her pain and holds readers' empathy. A girl at a school pep rally offers an explanation of the heroine's pariah status when she confronts Melinda about calling the police at a summer party, resulting in several arrests. But readers do not learn why Melinda made the call until much later: a popular senior raped her that night and, because of her trauma, she barely speaks at all. Only through her work in art class, and with the support of a compassionate teacher there, does she begin to reach out to others and eventually find her voice. Through the first-person narration, the author makes Melinda's pain palpable: "I stand in the center aisle of the auditorium, a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special." Though the symbolism is sometimes heavy-handed, it is effective. The ending, in which her attacker comes after her once more, is the only part of the plot that feels forced. But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1999 October
Gr 8 Up-This powerful novel deals with a difficult yet important topic-rape. Melinda is just starting high school. It should be one of the greatest times in her life, but instead of enjoying herself, she is an outcast. She has been marked as the girl who called the police to break up the big end-of-the-summer party, and all the kids are angry at her. Even her closest friends have pulled away. No one knows why she made the call, and even Melinda can't really articulate what happened. As the school year goes on, her grades plummet and she withdraws into herself to the point that she's barely speaking. Her only refuge is her art class, where she learns to find ways to express some of her feelings. As her freshman year comes to an end, Melinda finally comes to terms with what happened to her-she was raped at that party by an upperclassman who is still taunting her at school. When he tries again, she finds her voice, and her classmates realize the truth. The healing process will take time, but Melinda no longer has to deal with it alone. Anderson expresses the emotions and the struggles of teenagers perfectly. Melinda's pain is palpable, and readers will totally empathize with her. This is a compelling book, with sharp, crisp writing that draws readers in, engulfing them in the story.-Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1999 December
Gr 8 Up-A ninth grader becomes a social pariah when she calls the police to bust a summer bash and spends the year coming to terms with the secret fact that she was raped during the party. A story told with acute insight, acid wit, and affecting prose. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 1999 December
Melinda is a high school freshman with a devastating secret-a popular upper class jock raped her at a party over the summer. Wise enough to call 911, she was too stunned to speak when the police arrived, so the entire school thinks she did it justto break up the party. Shunned by her old friends and even by people she does not know, she spends her first year of high school alienated and unable to concentrate. She communicates with her absentee parents through notes on the fridge-a practiceher parents encourage, since they are not interested in talking about anything except her falling grades. Melinda's only refuge is art class, where her nonconformist teacher encourages self-expression through artwork. Finally, she finds the courageto speak out and face her demons. Readers will easily identify with Melinda, a realistic, likeable character. Anderson portrays a large suburban high school with a fresh and authentic eye-all the cliques are there, from the jocks, to the Goths, to the "Marthas" (Martha Stewartwanna-bes). This extremely well-written book has current slang, an accurate portrayal of high school life, and engaging characters. By using a conversational, first-person narrative, the author takes the reader into Melinda's world. This powerfulstory has an important lesson: never be afraid to speak up for yourself.-Rebecca Vnuk. Copyright 1999 Voya Reviews

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