A young adult story about an outcast freshman with a secret.
Melinda is starting high school with former friends who shun her, cold parents, and a nasty secret. She finds it difficult to make herself go to class, make friends and even to talk. The book is divided into the four quarters of the school year through which she gradually comes to terms with what happened during her summer vacation and finds her voice.
I am trying to avoid spoilers because I recommend the book and really don't want to ruin it for potential readers!
Melinda seems to have been an average junior high student with maybe above average intelligence and social insight. The writing doesn't seem out of place as the way a high schooler might think or write. Maybe she at times seems a little too self aware for her actions, but nothing that really takes away from the book. The narration also demonstrates a little of the unreliable narrator format as she at times describes herself in contrast to her actions. At any rate, I could definitely relate and become totally immersed in Melinda's world.
I read this book when I was in junior high or high school because Emily was reading it and that was how I got all my books back then! I remember liking it a lot, and it really stuck with me. I want to branch out more into young adult literature and testing whether I still liked "Speak" seemed like a good thing to do. I was so happy to discover that I liked it at least as much as I did back then. I laughed, I cried, whatever, I liked it!
One thing that really stuck with me from my previous reading of "Speak" was the tree theme. The highlight of Melinda's year is her art class in which each student is randomly assigned an object or theme to draw the entire year. Melinda receives the word tree and is struggling to draw trees throughout the year. It's probably a metaphor or something. Lulz.
I think my only concern in recommending this book, particularly to young readers, is the way it treats Melinda's self destructive behavior. While it doesn't put her flawed coping mechanisms in a really positive light it sort of condones it and treats it like an acceptable way to deal with a traumatic experience. I think the book's treatment of this self destructive behavior could give young readers ideas. Or not, I don't really know. It's definitely not something that should prevent anyone from reading the book!
So I definitely recommend this book to fans of young adult fiction. It's a really moving story that addresses really important topics for young people. I appreciate that it accomplishes this without being preachy or overbearing. The gradual exposition of Melinda's story is a really powerful mode of storytelling here.