What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this National Book Award finalist is about a girl traumatized by a rape (and is then isolated from her peers). Wounded, silent Melinda ditches class, steals passes from teachers, and deliberately cuts herself. Accurate descriptions of the minutiae of high school will appeal to any teen who has felt like an outsider, and when Melinda is finally able to speak, readers will rejoice in her triumphs. This is a gritty, powerful book that teachers and parents could use to launch a number of discussions. Readers must meld short descriptive passages to form the narrative.
What's the story?
High school should be the best time of Melinda's life. Instead, freshman year is a nightmare as Melinda finds herself rejected by her friends, cut off from her parents, and unable to reveal a terrible secret. In fact, she isn't speaking at all. Melinda's slow healing process is a realistic and compelling one, and readers will cheer for her when she finally does use her voice.
Is it any good?
This is one of the most devastatingly true and painful portrayals of high school to come along in a long time. The cliques, from the Jocks to the Big Hair Chix to the Marthas (devotees of a certain Ms. Stewart), are pigeonholed to perfection. Outsider Melinda seems somehow familiar, too. Her witty, ironic commentaries can't cover up her pain at being excluded.
Kids who are genuine outsiders stand to gain a lot from this compassionate novel. The author offers real solutions to Melinda's pain: Melinda's connection to a mentor, her artistic creations, and even her plans for a flower garden all feed her inner strength. When she's finally able to speak, readers will rejoice in her triumphs.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about how this book has received lots of praise and is taught in classrooms, from eighth grade on up. But its controversial subject matter has also made it a target of censors. What do you think? Is it too intense for teens? In your opinion, should any book ever be banned or require parental permission?
Speak was a finalist for the National Book Awards, a very prestigious award given out each year. Looking at the list of previous year's young adult winners, are there any other titles you'd like to read? Does it make any difference to you if a book has been selected for an award?