Saturday, February 14, 2009

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

My next young adult selection from the library was Speak. This is a book that has stayed with me. It is book #2 on the 2009 Books Worth Buying list. I have found myself thinking about it at the most random moments. Most of all my thoughts have centered around how much high school sucks. It’s just a fact, plain and simple.

My high school experience was by no means as terrible as Melinda’s was but in so many ways I related to the aftermath of her trauma. Being ignored, hated, or gossiped about by people who used to be your friends and by many you have never met is something you just don’t forget easily. You don’t forget the overwhelming desire to just fade into the scenery either; to find somewhere that no one can see you. For Melinda this place is the abandoned janitor’s closet on campus. I was lucky to have a mother who helped me get away from school as much as possible. Mercifully the school year ended and I never went back. But it was jarring to me to feel that way again even for a moment 12 years later. I wonder what I would have done if I hadn’t had an escape route through my mom.

So much in this book resonanted with me. It was like reading quotes from a more articulate version of my fifteen year old self’s journal. Like this one referring to her former best friend:

“This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn’t make fun of my bedroom. If there is anyone in the entire galaxy I am dying to tell what really happened, it’s Rachel. My throat burns. Her eyes meet mine for a second. “I hate you,” she mouths silently. She turns her back to me and laughs with her friends. I bite my lip. I am not going to think about it. It was ugly, but it’s over, and I’m not going to think about it. My lip bleeds a little. It tastes like metal. I need to sit down.” pg.5
The scenes with Melinda’s teachers also stirred up memories for me. All but one of her teachers chose to willfully misunderstand her plight and in many situations made things worse (yes, Ms. Hunnell I’m looking at you). I could keep this side by side sadness comparison going for quite awhile so I’ll stop myself now. This book is excellent, well written, realistic, and heart breaking. It made me sad for Melinda, sad for myself, and sad for teenage girls everywhere.


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