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 Andy Evans. She becomes silent and secretive; she becomes distrustful of people and terrified of being alone with a boy. Speak follows Melinda through her freshman year. We watch as she struggles to change back into the girl she used to be, while becoming someone newer and stronger. Her positive transformations come about through art, learning, listening, and speaking. They come about through intense contemplation on Melinda's part and through her willingness to draw on everything around her for the answers she needs.
At the end of the novel, Melinda learns to reclaim the innocence she thought she lost when Andy raped her.