Thoughts speakbylha Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, publisher??? (orig 1999), 198 pages (according to the goodreads page I link to here from the book cover image)

I subbed last week for an English teacher. For two of her classes, I led vocabulary discussion of Speak; covering a range of pages in the first third of the book, pushed play on the audio CD and then passed out a questionnaire. LOVE! I can’t truthfully admit that I read every word but I skimmed through and hit many highlights and read the last few pages desperately and thoroughly engaged. Tears in my eyes.

NOTE: in another class that day, I read aloud from The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney but was not capable of finishing that one by skimming. I want/need to get back to this one! Also, it was Read Aloud Day and I was very excited to have been able to participate.

Back to Speak. What a great book! I feel privileged to be a part of sharing such important relevant books with our young people.

If you don’t know, I will spoil it all for you. Don’t HIGHLIGHT if you don’t want to know. This is a book about a young girl who was raped at an end-of-summer party and calls 911. The cops break up the party and so now all the kids hate her. She ended up running after placing the call so NO ONE KNOWS. She does not understand clearly what happened, how it happened and certainly not the best way to deal with it. She turns inward and SILENT. She starts high school – never easy but now she is considered a freak, she has no friends and — oh! it’s just so hard!  

And I am sad that the author tells in the back of the book that she often has students ask her why the girl didn’t just enjoy being assaulted. Whoa. Seriously messed up. Bless authors and teachers for presenting these tough subjects through literature.

And now a fun quote about pie!

“Oh, if you put it in a slice of pumpkin pie, it could be a desserted island!”  -p64

Four slices of Pumpkin Pie (page 64) fourpie


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22 thoughts on “Speak

  1. Yes, my daughter had this assigned and I read it, too. I see a lot more sensitivity to this kind of situation among more groups of high schoolers today than there was back when the novel was being written.
    There’s also an interesting kind of companion novel, similarly short, written from the point of view of a guy who raped a girl but doesn’t see it that way (until the end). I can’t find the title of it; will have to look through old syllabi (I offered it and Speak as extra credit assignments in my “relationships in literature” class years ago).

    1. Teaching guides are available for this and so many new books – I didn’t realize that, either. Part of me is sad that kids don’t get to suffer (ha!) through those boring classics but kids always seem to hate what they ‘HAVE TO’ read anyway.

  2. Can’t believe I still haven’t read this one. Gotta say that bit from the author’s notes at the end really felt like a punch in the gut, huh? *sigh* And yes, yes, yes on the praise to authors and teachers for putting it out there!

    1. The author also tells in the beginning that she really didn’t think the book would even find a publisher and then was amazed the reception it got and still receives. I really need to put her on my ‘read more by’ list.

  3. I read and loved this book and another of hers, a historical fiction book called Chains, but GOD some of her books can be very close to unbearable to read. I was just commenting on Jeanne’s blog that reading Wintergirls was a really unpleasant experience but I wanted to know how it was going to turn out so I didn’t stop. But Chains! Read Chains! It’s so good.

  4. This is one I read and reviewed in my early blogging days and it really affected me. Shortly after I read it I chaired the book fair at my then-7th grade (not quite 12yr old) daughter’s book fair and there it was, prominently displayed, with a “Book Talk” quote from one of the English teachers encouraging all students to read it. I was upset about that and questioned the appropriateness of it being there, as I thought the subject matter was too intense and mature, at least for my daughter (remember- I’d just read the book, and I knew my daughter). But looking back, I think it was appropriate. The incident with the main character happens the summer before high school, so Speak really does belong in middle schools. But I think my daughter would have been too young for it at that time. I’d say 13-14 and older is about the right age.

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