Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux / Penguin Group
Publication Date: 1999
Genre/Format: Realistic Ficton-Teen Issues/Novel
Summary: After calling the cops at an end-of-summer bash, Melinda finds herself as an outcast when school starts again. She struggles with what happened that night at the party but has no one she feels she can confide in so she keeps it all to herself.
What I Think: It's hard to talk about this book without giving away what it's all about, and the book itself is written so artfully that it's not really fair to give away what it's about. Part of the message in this book is that Melinda doesn't know how to deal with what has happened to her, she doesn't want to deal with it and she can't talk to anyone about it. Anderson does an amazing job expressing Melinda's feelings by implying what has happened to her without coming out and saying it. This book is an amazing lesson in making inferences. I strongly believe this is an important book in young adult literature. There are so many young adults who can relate to what Melinda is going through, whether they themselves have suffered exactly what she is going through or something similarly traumatic. (**Warning - I am going to list what happens to her below in the topics area - so don't look if you don't want it to be spoiled for you - or look if you really want to know what it's all about.**)
I have only worked for one year in a high school, but I would definitely recommend it to high schoolers (mainly girls), but I do work in middle schools and I think it's appropriate for mature 7th or 8th graders. I actually think this would make a great book for small group or whole class discussions even. I've found that middle schoolers seem to love the realistic fiction genre or teen issues genre and this one definitely fits the bill.
This book has recently been challenged for its content. If you do read this with students or know a student who has read this, it's a great way to start of author's purpose. Anderson wrote a poem based on all the letters she received after writing Speak. I think it illustrates why she wrote the book and why the book is important. You can read her response to this book be challenged here.
Read Together: 7 - 12
Read Alone: 7 - 12
Read With: Snatch of Text: Other teen issues books like books by Sarah Dessen - Someone Like You or The Truth About Forever, Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, Sharon Draper's Tears of a Tiger or The Battle of Jericho; Nonfiction about depression or traumatic stress disorder or other mental illnesses
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Author's Purpose
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt sad or betrayed. Write about a person in your life that you trust.
Topics Covered: Rape, Depression, Trust, Friendship, Family
Translated to Spanish: No, but another of Anderson's books, Wintergirls, is translated to Spanish! I haven't read Frio, but it looks good from the summary. It was just released September, 2010.
This book review is posted in honor of ALA Banned Books Week 2010.