OK, I know this books has been out since 1999 and I’m about the only person who reads Young Adult Literature who hasn’t gotten around to this one.  I can make excuses: I usually read fantasy; I tend to steer away from the depressing; I was totally wrapped up in HARRY POTTER for the last decade.  While all of that is true, I’m still sorry I didn’t get around to this sooner.

I picked up SPEAK because it was an award winning debut novel.  It was a national book award finalist, A Printz Honor Book, and a New York Times Bestseller.  It was made into a movie starring none other than Kristen Stewart.  Because it’s on the older side, Ms. Anderson’s website advertises her newest book WINTERGIRLS, also an issue book, but this time about eating disorders.  She also writes young adult historical fiction, including the titles CHAINS and FEVER 1793.  So I can see I’ve got some reading to do!

SPEAK is the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who’s a social outcast on her first day of high school.  Her childhood friends won’t talk to her.  Everyone seems to be mad at her.  And at the beginning of the book, it seems like it’s because Melinda called the police at an illegal party over the summer and got a lot of people in trouble.  But there’s a lot more to the situation than that and you spend a fair amount of the book finding out the truth.

Melinda is the main character and since the story is told in the first person and she is a pretty solitary girl, she bears the bulk of the story.  Which, really, is an amazing thing.  I don’t know if I could turn my thoughts from a year in high school into something engaging and artistic.  Yet, Ms. Anderson really makes it work.  Aside from Melinda, there’s Heather, a new girl from Ohio who wasn’t part of what went on over the summer and wants to fit in with almost sinister ambition.  And David Petrakis, the high school brain and Melinda’s unlikely friend.  On the adult side of things is Mr. Freeman, the free-thinking art teacher and Melinda’s parents a distracted pair with a tenuous marriage.

So, in my next post, I’m going to cover the characters, which you might guess is going to be pretty heavily weighted towards Melinda.  I’m the kind of writer who likes a cast of characters, and certainly with a character being in High School, the other kids are there.  However, because Melinda is so solitary, it almost feels like she’s the only person in the book.  I’m going to try to see if I can figure out why it works.

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