“Speak” a groundbreaking must read

During its first year of publication, Speak was awarded with the Micheal L. Printz Award in 2000.

Photo Credit: Rachelle Saerang

During its first year of publication, “Speak” was awarded with the Micheal L. Printz Award in 2000.

By: Rachelle Saerang, Editor

Speak shares a story of healing through the lens of a teenager and new high schooler. Although cliché, the book displays the theme of speaking up for yourself and have your voice heard. 

About the Author 

A New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson focuses on survival. Along with Speak (1999), she has written Chains (2008), most recently Shout (2019) and many more. Altogether, she has sold more than 8 million copies combined. Out of all, Speak is her most famous book. It was a National Book Award finalist, won the author the Golden Kite Award, and it even had its own 2004 movie starring Kristen Stewart. The Young Adult Fiction, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson shares a teenage, normally undiscussed, topic that is groundbreaking to the necessary dialogue. 


Melinda is an outgoing girl who is spirited. She loves hanging out with her friend group and meeting new people. Now a new freshman in high school, Melinda starts off the year on the wrong track. During a party over the summer she dials 911. Hesitant in saying her true intentions of calling, the cops break up the party–resulting in arrests. Every student at Merryweather High School hates her. All of her friends have departed their friend group–leaving her alone. She tries to stick with an unhealthy friendship just so that she doesn’t sit by herself during lunch. One particular teacher gives her a hard time with her not wanting to speak in class. Even her parents can’t take the time to listen to her. 

The once excited for life–turned reserved teenager, falls into depression and develops a great anxiety. Too afraid of sticking up for herself after failing to have people listen to her, she vows to never speak to any adult and even her peers again. It takes her a whole year to find her true voice again. Along with the hardships, she makes one genuine friend that supports her and helps her break out of her shell. With her Art class and a rare eccentric teacher, Melinda finds a safe haven in an intimidating environment. Through her projects, she is able to heal and cope by expressing her emotions.

One of the main themes of Speak takes a blow to the hypocrisy of High School. The school consistently encourages their students, “Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.” When in reality, if she does, she gets shut down. 


The book opens up the important discussion of sexual assault and its healing process. Most importantly, it discusses the assault of a 13 year old teenager which is rarely given a platform. This story can connect and be read by all age ranges from the high school level to adults. Even though the book does tend to drag on and may seem repetitive in the way that it uses a monotone, it plays into the symbolism of the main character’s story. If you love finding the deeper meaning in writing, this is the book shares 224 of it. 


Out of 5, this book deserves a strong 4.5. Speak is real and raw. It showcases a reality that anyone can experience, especially a teenager girl. Anderson writes in a way that illustrates emotions where you can envision the mind of Melinda. The book shares a story of loneliness, anxiousness, depression, but also healing. I would be lying if I said I never shedded a couple tears. On the bright side, the book ends with Melinda starting an optimistic new stage in life.

Where to Buy

A groundbreaking book like Speak should be accessible because these stories are important to share. It is available in Barnesandnoble and Amazon for less than $10.