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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Language and Communication

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 u...

Isolation

Melinda starts the school year isolated by her outcast status, by the secret of her recent rape, and by the fact that her rapist goes to her school. Some of her isolation is self-imposed; she inten...

Violence

Merryweather High, the primary setting of Speak is a violent, scary place, at least if you are ninth grader Melinda Sordino, school outcast. Everybody blames her for calling the police at the end-o...

Education

Speak is what fancy literary types call a Bildungsroman. That's a German word meaning novel (roman) + education (bildung), or novel of education. Melinda Sordino, the star of Speak, goes through in...

Friendship

Friendship is a tender and brutal thing in Speak. When Melinda loses all her friends at a party just before she starts high school due to a grave misunderstanding, she's forced to reevaluate the na...

Sadness

It would be fair to call Laurie Halse Anderson's bestselling novel a "tearjerker." The novel's young heroine, Melinda Sordino, is deeply sad. She's been raped and can't tell anybody. All the people...

Transformation

Coming-of-age novels go hand in hand with the theme of transformation. Melinda Sordino, fourteen-year-old high school freshman, is drastically transformed when she's raped by high school senior And...

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 con...
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