SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. So Steph (Reviewer X) and I thought we'd celebrate with this feature. Since it is quite long, we have divided into 5 parts. Part 1 is on Steph's site so please read that first.
Here's the handy table of contents so you can follow along in order:
Part 1 Steph and Lenore speak up about Speak (at Reviewer X)
Part 2: Steph and Lenore speak up about Speak (continued) (at Presenting Lenore)
Part 3: Authors speak up about Speak (at Presenting Lenore)
Part 4: Win one of 20 copies of Speak (both blogs)
Part 5 still to come!
NOTE: The following is continued from part 1 on Reviewer X's blog.
Steph: This is a book about alienation, ostracism, and loneliness – it’s not just about rape. In fact, Melinda doesn’t mention what happened to her until pretty late into the novel. I think that while it’s evident the assault is a major part of the plot, it resides in the subtext. The way it is handled helps those who feel exactly like Melinda but for different reasons relate to her. This is the part of the novel that got to me the most because her observations were right on the mark and poignant.
Lenore: You know, Melinda seems resigned to being rejected, and it hurt to read because you just feel like so much of her suffering could have been avoided had she just SAID something from the beginning. What is your take on the title – does it seem a little ironic seeing as Melinda hardly ever says anything?
Steph: Melinda omits a lot of what happened to her at first, but the narrative itself is straightforward. There is no guesswork to be done about what Melinda means—she thinks it simply and she thinks it clearly, even if she never physically says anything. There’s a power behind that, especially in connection with the reader. I love how this novel is vivid and contains great imagery without resorting to ornate prose.
Lenore: That’s so true. You know, I have mixed feelings about the Heather character. I did feel a bit sorry for her. She’s new in town and wants desperately to have friends and all she ends up is mopey Melinda who never wants to do anything. Heather can’t know what happened to Melinda, and yet, even though she sees she’s depressed, she never even tries to dig deeper and have a heart to heart. OK, maybe Melinda might not have been ready to open up at that point, but at least give her a chance. As for trying to be a Martha? Bad call.
Steph: My favorite character is the free-thinking art teacher, Mr. Freeman. From the get go, he’s the intuitive force of nature who will help Melinda break out of her shell. Melinda realizes this, too—when everyone is going on about how insane he is, she’s thinking he’s the sanest person she knows. I love how he teaches creative expression as an outlet for the soul and a basic necessity for a well-adjusted person. How real he is—emotional, crazy, sometimes a little irrational. And I love his quotes. But those taken out of context are not nearly as powerful, so I won’t ruin it for everyone.
Lenore: Yes, Mr. Freeman (now there’s a name with symbolism!) is really the polar opposite of Mr. Neck, the authoritarian teacher who only respects his own opinion. Mr. Neck certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to speak out or speak up for themselves. But do readers take the title to heart? Does it give them the courage to talk about what's going on their lives? Many people say it does. And I hope so. Laurie Halse Anderson has said she didn’t write the novel with a message in mind, but rather she just wanted to tell a good story: “Good books reflect the human experience, and we all learn from that.” (SPEAK Platinum edition bonus materials)
Both: Hear, Hear.
Thanks for joining us!