Parents' Guide to


By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Poignant, poetic memoir about healing from sexual assault.

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Laurie Halse Anderson's memoir is a profound and powerful exploration of memory, abuse, family, and the healing power of breaking a silence. The poetry ranges from beautiful and amusing to utterly gut-wrenching. The author shares so much of her background, from her complicated upbringing with a quiet and hard-shelled mother to a compassionate but alcohol-abusing father, who was a Protestant minister haunted by his time liberating concentration camps at the end of World War II. The author's sexual assault itself isn't dwelled upon for its physical damage but for its lifelong emotional impact. There would be no Melinda and no Speak if not for Laurie's own experience as a 13-year-old looking for romance and safety and ending up with a harrowing moment of violence.

Shout readers would ideally have already read Speak, along with one or two of the author's other works, but the memoir makes a touching introduction to her life and literary contributions. The memoir is particularly relevant, because as the writer argues, even in post- #MeToo society, rape culture and lack of consent are still prevalent. As Anderson reveals, no matter where she talks to teens, there are still always young men who ask her what the big deal is, why her protagonist is so upset when she "liked" the guy who raped her. On the other hand, there are still women and men (and girls and boys) who continue to struggle with their past experiences. The poems can be as short as a few lines to as long as a few pages, but the language is clear and direct, with metaphors and themes young adults will relate to or at least understand. Two of the most effective poems include one in which Anderson implores men to stop thinking they have special genitals entitled to score or win, and another implores women to think of the vast number of times they've been cat-called, touched inappropriately, abused, or assaulted and then says, "It's not your fault." But they're all worth reading and processing and discussing, especially for high schoolers.

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