A friend enthusiastically recommended a young adult book, Speak, describing how the novel was a catalyst in her decision to enter therapy and try the “talking cure.” She urged me to read it, in part probably to help me get to know her better; readers love to share the transformative experience with others. So I did as she requested. I began it just before bed and was up until 4 a.m. to finish it.

It’s a story about trauma, being outcast by peers, withdrawal into self, and then resurgence and expression. Fourteen year-old Melinda is starting high school. A few weeks before school begins, she sneaks behind her parents’ back to attend a party hosted by seniors — rare behavior for her. Something terrible happens to her. She calls 911; the cops come and bust everyone. The other kids turn on her for calling the police, thinking she did it to just turn them in, and she is ostracized. However, Melinda didn’t even get help for the reason she called the police. The crowd’s hostility and her shock drive her off the scene.

Melinda then begins her high school career — bereft of all friends, the focus of hostile expressions. She tells no one about the situation because she doesn’t think she’ll be believed. Her family life is very disconnected, with unhappily married parents and no siblings. Over the school year she copes as best she can, but she slowly chokes on unexpressed pain and rage; she must find a way to express her need for help. One means of coping is through art — sculpting, drawing, and painting — until she summons the courage to speak and fights on her own behalf.

The author has a good grasp on high school culture and the chaos of adolescence. The story is engaging and the topic relevant. I would definitely recommend it for a young adult’s library.

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4 Comments on “Speak”

  1. kat Says:

    hmm, that’s interesting. the girl i work with has this book on her shelf. i’ll have to give it a go.

  2. la peregrina Says:

    I read this book last year and you are right, it is very well written.

  3. taliesin Says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    When it comes to speaking out, oddly I “met” you not via Natalie but at “AllConsuming”.

    And I’ve promptly blogrolled you. 😉

    For some reason, I can’t get my trackbacks to show up here, but I appreciate much of your writing and work.

    Again, the comment link on your ‘Panic attacks‘ post doesn’t work for me, but it’s most interesting.

    The NYT article you’ve linked has been shunted into their (paying) archives, but ‘EurekAlert’ still has the details freely available online.



  4. Kathryn Says:

    Hi, Nick. Thanks for stopping by. The comments are designed to close after seven days to prevent spam attacks. Thanks for providing the EurkAlert link — I truly wish that the NYT would keep archives accessible. Alas they don’t, which is often why I quote pretty extensively from an article.

    I appreciate your kind comments and hope you continue to find useful information here. 🙂