September 25, 2010

Spotlight on Speak

In celebration of Banned Book Week, Speak is this week's spotlight. This novel has been on shelves for ten years, and it continues to be a staple in classrooms and on teen bookshelves. Over the last week I have witnessed those on Twitter as well as in the blogging world speak loudly against one who finds this book as a representation of soft pornography.

This book is a must-read for every teen, male and female. The topic explored makes many uncomfortable, which means there is a need for this novel. The author addresses the topic of rape with tenderness and brings to reality the effects of the actions of others. The torment that our heroine (and yes, Melinda is a heroine in my eyes) endures throughout will stop your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

Everyone knows Melinda, and in a lot of ways, Melinda lives inside each of us. She is a reminder to those who do not speak for what is right, even when they've been wronged. The power of words is sometimes forgotten, but in the pages of this book, we are reminded that that power lies in the hands and on the lips of each and every one of us. Remember not to just speak, but to SPEAK LOUDLY.

This is a novel I wish were available to me when I was a teenager, and I am proud to place it in the hands of the teens I teach today and to discuss it with those who have read it. While I do not teach this novel, many of my juniors read it as a freshman. And they praise it. And they are grateful to have it. And they too know, or are, a Melinda. Thank you Laurie Halse Anderson for providing an honest work on a subject that leaves its victim feelings ashamed and silenced.

Novels such as this are the reason we should fight against the banning of books. People have the freedom to read, and every story deserves to be told. Stories that we ourselves may not personally experience but are able to develop empathy toward those who do. You have a right not to read those stories, but you do not have the right to tell others they cannot. By banning stories such as Speak, you are telling others they are alone and should feel ashamed.


  1. Crys, I agree with you completely. I read this powerful novel with my freshmen, and I always get a very positive response. It opens up amazing discussions for these kids, and I think it's important for them to have a place where they can ask questions about what constitutes as sexual harassment. Many have experienced it and knew it made them uncomfortable, but didn't realize they could speak up and say something about it.

  2. And that is usually what the kids say to me as well. If I mention the book, I usually get the "That is an awesome book" response from both the boys and the girls. And when I do a book talk, I find that it is rotated between students for the rest of the school year. The need is there, I just wish we had other books like it on this same topic that take as much care as Anderson does.


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