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.
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 intentionally withdraws from people. This has its benefits. She really needs time to process her experience and come to her own conclusions about it. But she also needs the support of friends and family in order to heal. One great thing about Speak is that Melinda recognizes that her isolation is harmful and takes steps to reconnect with others.
In Speak, Melinda recognizes that her isolation from friends and family is harmful for her, and she takes steps to reconnect with others.
At the end of Speak, Andy and Melinda change places – he becomes the isolated outcast she once was.
Merryweather High, the primary setting of <em>Speak</em> 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-of-the-summer party and getting them all in trouble. She gets pushed in the halls, gets her hair pulled, and she's even pushed down the bleachers at the pep rally. An even more intense violence is going on inside Melinda in the form of a memory she's trying to get rid of – the memory of being raped at the party. But how can she forget the assault when her rapist, Andy Evans, goes to her school? Whenever Melinda encounters him, he commits violence against her – verbal violence, physical violence, psychological violence. Don't get the wrong idea about this novel, though. This is a hopeful story. It's about how speaking the truth can sometimes <em>stop</em> violence and lead to a gentler world.
Melinda uses just enough force to stop Andy, even though she wants to kill him; this shows that she is gaining lots of control over her emotions.
Andy's violence against female students at Merryweather is part of what gives the school such a sick atmosphere.
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 intense growth over the course of the story. Coming-of-age novels are often novels of education and like Speak they often (not always!) take place in school settings. Here we can learn a little about biology, art, literature, civil rights, and even some Spanish. But that's just a bonus. Our real fascination lies in following Melinda through her education or re-education of the heart. In "Tone," we suggest that Speak is also a novel meant specifically to educate the public, or at least open a dialogue, on the subject of rape and its aftermath. The novel also teaches about the power that speech has to hurt and to make things better.
Speak makes high school seem worse than it is.
Speak's main purpose is to help young people learn to talk about their problems.
The characters in the novel don't reach out to Melinda because they are not educated about sexual assault.
Friendship is a tender and brutal thing in <em>Speak.</em> 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 nature of friendship. It hurts to watch her heart get broken again and again by those she wants to be friends with. It also hurts to watch her close off from those who wish her well. Over the course of the novel, though, she gradually finds ways to renew her old friendships and to make new ones. She learns to see others with kinder eyes and to communicate with them in a healthy way. <em>Speak</em> celebrates friendship, while exploring its complex nature.
Melinda's love for Rachel motivates Melinda to talk about the rape.
David Petrakis acts like a true friend to Melinda.
Melinda's friendship with Mr. Freeman is the most important one in the book.
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 she thought were her friends hate her. Her constant need to sleep, her self-mutilation, her depression are all symptoms of the deep sadness she feels. Her vision of the world, of herself, and of her friends is shattered. Now she trusts no one. By the end of the book, however, Melinda is gradually letting go of her depression. When she finally learns how to speak about the terrible thing that happened to her, she begins to find a way past her sadness.
More than calling the cops at the party, Melinda's depression drives away her friends.
Melinda learns to uses sadness as a tool to help her find her feelings.
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.
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.
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.