Melinda Sordino, the fourteen-year-old star of Speak, loses the ability to communicate after she is sexually assaulted at a party. Instead of speaking out about what happened to her, she bottles up her pain inside, hoping that if she doesn't speak about it, she'll forget what happened to her. Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel follows Melinda as she re-learns to talk. She finds lots of other ingenious modes of communication in the meantime. Some of these are effective, like channeling her emotions into art and science. Others, like sending distress signals to the outside world by scratching her wrists, don't communicate what she wants them to. She learns that silence has a place and a purpose, but that sometimes speaking loudly, risky as it can be, is necessary.
Mr. Freeman is the only person in the novel who is really interested in hearing what has been bothering Melinda.
Speaking is the most challenging but rewarding form of communication; art and writing (such as on the bathroom wall) will never give Melinda the kind of relief that speaking can.