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Speak Paperback – April 23, 2001

1,834 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...

Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. The triumphant ending, in which Melinda finds her voice, is cause for cheering (while many readers might also shed a tear or two). After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person--who may be screaming beneath the silence. (Ages 13 and older) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager. Divided into the four marking periods of an academic year, the novel, narrated by Melinda Sordino, begins on her first day as a high school freshman. No one will sit with Melinda on the bus. At school, students call her names and harass her; her best friends from junior high scatter to different cliques and abandon her. Yet Anderson infuses the narrative with a wit that sustains the heroine through her pain and holds readers' empathy. A girl at a school pep rally offers an explanation of the heroine's pariah status when she confronts Melinda about calling the police at a summer party, resulting in several arrests. But readers do not learn why Melinda made the call until much later: a popular senior raped her that night and, because of her trauma, she barely speaks at all. Only through her work in art class, and with the support of a compassionate teacher there, does she begin to reach out to others and eventually find her voice. Through the first-person narration, the author makes Melinda's pain palpable: "I stand in the center aisle of the auditorium, a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special." Though the symbolism is sometimes heavy-handed, it is effective. The ending, in which her attacker comes after her once more, is the only part of the plot that feels forced. But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Speak (April 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014131088X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141310886
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,834 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous American Library Association and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also made the Carnegie Medal Shortlist in the United Kingdom.

Laurie was the proud recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature...". She was also honored with the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Librarian Association.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. She and her husband, Scot, plus dogs Kezzie and Thor, and assorted chickens and other critters enjoy country living and time in the woods. When not writing or hanging out with her family, you can find Laurie training for marathons or trying to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard. You can follow her adventures on Twitter,, and on her blog,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 201 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is definitely one of my favorites. It's so different from anything I have ever read, the style, the tone, and the way it was written. It was a compelling read from the beginning to the end.
The story is not written as your average outcast "popular people are stupid" cliche. It's an original. The tone is like Melinda is just relaying her thoughts and what she sees to the reader, rather than her feelings and rage and anger against the people that hurt her. Her character gets stronger as you read on, as she begins to stand up for herself.
I liked how the author didn't just tell you what had happened to Melinda in order for her to stay so silent - instead, bits of the incident unfolds as you read along.
I was caught up in Melinda's world, and even though I'm glad to say that I haven't been there and done that, it was easy to just recognize the pain, fear and confusion she went through just because the author doesn't say it right out.
Overall, an excellent read and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to feel the triumph of "Speak".
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142 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Steven R. McEvoy on May 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Melinda Sordino, a student with good grades and great friends, has made some mistakes. At the end of a summer party she calls the cops, yet when they arrive she doesn't tell them anything. Back at school the next year, her friends won't speak to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her as the fink who wrecked everybody's party, and her grades start dropping. Her relationship with her parents deteriorates quickly. She becomes sullen, and withdrawn. However this picture is not the whole story.

Her parents know something is wrong but cannot get her to open up. Her only hope is her art teacher; he realizes something is very wrong and through the assignments he gives her tries to draw her out.

This is a story of a girl who is abused, and who doesn't know how to talk about it, but in keeping it inside she is self -destructing. Can Melinda find her voice and speak of her sorrow, or will her silence destroy her?
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book was amazingly well written. I received this book for Christmas('99) and finished it the next day. I didn't want to put it down. The characters are portrayed in a way that relate to teenagers like myself. The author confronts a fear most girls and women don't want to even think about, much less experience. The main chracter, Melinda, spoke in a way that makes the reader understand the pain and fear that took control of her, keeping her from saying what needed to be said. This is one of the most touching books I have ever read. It inspires one to face their fears and move on.
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130 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Jarrod T Thompson VINE VOICE on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All Teens should read this book. Peer pressure does a lot of bad things, one of those things is convincing victims to feel like they have done something wrong.
Speak is a fast-paced read that involves the reader emotionally from the very start. Speak is an accurate portrayal of the very common existence of high school cruelty and peer pressure. Every reader should identify with most of what happens in this novel, no matter what their age.
You will get mad at the good characters as well as the bad. I found myself talking out loud to the characters, which is why I know the book involves you.
Speak passes my Young Adult novel test. The book allows you to read without wanting to put it down, and it flows straight to ending. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a book that will be around for a very long time.
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Sule M. Holder on July 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a black male in my late 20's, I didnt think I would get as interested as I did in the novel. I'm a Librarian and I always see the book being checked-out or returend to the branch so I picked it up...WHOA!!!

From the beginning I was intrigued by the main character, Melinda. She has a voice that is forgotten in the literary world. It remineded me of "Catcher in the Rye". The settings and chracters take you back to a time when High School was all that mattered.

I recommend the novel strongly. It's a quick/easy read and by the end of the novel, your cheering for Melinda.

PS. I gave the book for my wife to read and she got the "secret" right this a woman's intuition???
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Speak is one of the best teen novels that I've read in a long time. Anderson didn't merely tell a story, she let the reader inside the mind of the heroine. Descriptive language and active monologue allowed me to actually feel the torment and confusion of a young rape victim. Melinda ended her freshman summer with a party at which she was raped by a popular senior. Her call for help was misconstrued as a call to break up the party, and she spent her entire freshman year as a social outcast; even her closest friends turned their backs on Melinda for breaking up the party. She became increasingly withdrawn until she almost completly stopped talking. Only a special teacher and a few somewhat confidants kept her from totally withdrawing into herself. Even so, no one besides IT(her term for her attacker) knew what actually happeded at that party. But as she matures, she comes to realize that what happened to her wasn't her fault, and that it was her right to SPEAK. I totally reccomend this book to anyone in need of a good story and a good cheering session. YEAH!
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