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by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak Theme of Guilt and Blame

It's kind of ironic. When Melinda starts ninth grade, most of the kids despise her. They blame her for getting the end-of-the-summer party busted by the cops. Although the bust did have serious consequences for the partiers, the real crime was committed against Melinda. She was raped, but she's afraid the rape was somehow her fault. She isn't even sure that was Andy Evans did to her was rape. As she struggles with her secret and her feelings of guilt, she blames those around her (her parents, friends, school personnel) for not being able to figure out what's wrong with her. Eventually, though, she comes to realize that Andy Evans is the only one to blame. Things get tricky when she begins to understand that if she doesn't start talking about what Andy did, other girls might get hurt. A sense of responsibility for others motivates her to break her silence.

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. What are some of the reasons Melinda feels like the rape was her fault?
  2. Should we blame Melinda's parents for not being able to help her, or for the way they treat her? Why, or why not? Will they feel guilty when they know what she's been through?
  3. Why doesn't Melinda seem to blame Rachel for betraying her?
  4. What do you think happens to Andy after he's discovered trying to rape Melinda a second time? Will he get out of it, or will he have to take the blame?
  5. Why does visiting the spot where she was raped seem to make Melinda feel less guilty?
  6. How did you feel when dozens of girls accuse Andy with their writings on the bathroom wall? Do you consider this reliable evidence? Would a court of law?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Melinda believes that she doesn't have a right to talk about the rape, because she thinks it was her fault.

The Merryweather High School faculty failed Melinda; they should have recognized that she was having a difficult time in her personal life and provided better support.

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