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Book Summary

In Laurie Halse Andersonís Speak, readers are introduced to Melinda Sordino, a young girl who stood up for herself in the face of terror and continues to pay for her actions even months later.  Now, she no longer does speak up for herself.  In fact, she does not speak at all.  Only two people know the real reason behind Melindaís call to the police on the night of the big bash. Only two people can guess why she has suddenly become mute.  None of her former friends or would be friends can help her.  They have all turned away from her because of one call that broke up a party.

Melinda cannot speak to anyone about what really happened that night.  Whenever she opens her mouth, all that comes out is a stutter.  Her friends have deserted her and her parents have forgotten how to communicate with their own daughter.  Now Melinda is alone, cast out by the rest of the kids and forced to bear the burden of a terrible secret on her own.  The only form of expression she has left is her art, through which her pain is starkly revealed.  That, and her writing, where the pain she cannot speak of, fills the pages with a grief and rage too long concealed.

Over time, through her writing and her art, Melindaís pain slowly begins to heal and the raw, jagged edges of that nightís wound begin to soften and smooth, and she is finally able to face what happened between her and Andy Evans, referred to by Melinda as It and The Beast. Just when Melinda begins to repair the broken pieces that have become her life, Andy returns, this time to terrorize both Melinda and one of her former friends. Refusing to give in again and lose her voice to shame and silence, Melinda finally finds the strength to speak up and speak loud enough for everyone to hear.

Author Study
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Like Melinda, the main character in the story, Laurie Halse Anderson grew up in Syracuse, New York. From the time she was young, she enjoyed typing and pounding away on her fatherís typewriter while he would read or write poetry. Laurie gained a great love for poetry when she was in the second grade and her teacher introduced Haiku poems to the class. After learning how to write Haiku, Laurie read the book Heidi, which became one of her favorites, and which also led to a great curiosity in foreign cultures. Because of this curiosity, Laurie spent one year in Denmark through a foreign exchange program, during her senior year of high school, and is still able to speak Danish today.

Upon returning to the States, she attended Onondaga Community College, located in Syracuse, New York, and then transferred to Georgetown University where she obtained a bachelors degree in Languages and Linguistics.

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List of Related Books
By Dawn Bozman

Picture Books by Laurie Halse Anderson:

  • No Time For Motherís Day
  • Ndito Runs
  • Turkey Pox
  • The Shy Child:  Helping Children Triumph Over Shyness by Ward K. Swallow, Ph.D.     Laurie Halse Anderson (Contributor)
  • Other related books:
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Stop Pretending:  What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Jones
  • The Copper Elephant by Adam Rapp
  • When Zachary Beaver Came to Town  by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • Burger Wuss by Matthew T. Anderson, David Butler (Illustrator)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Watcher by James Howe
  • Look for these books by Laurie Halse Anderson that will be coming out soon:
     Fever 1793 (August 2000)
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