While I was channel surfing the other day, I came across a movie called Speak. Yes, the book by Laurie Halse Anderson inspired it, and yes, a young Kristen Stewart played the lead role. Watching the movie had triggered an urge in me to re
-read the book. I’ve probably read this book a handful of times and each time I do, something new sticks with me.
If you are unfamiliar with the plot of this book, I warn you ahead of time. This book not only contains bullying, but the main character is a rape victim. This book tells the story of her traumatizing event, the trauma she deals with as a result of the event, and how she finally starts to heal. Though the details of the rape are not too graphic, if you are uncomfortable with this topic, this may not be the book for you.
Melinda Sordino begins her freshman year of high school completely friendless. She is a social pariah after breaking up a party during the previous summer by calling the cops. The whole school calls her names and physically bullies her for getting them all in trouble. If her peers had actually known why she called the cops, maybe they would have been a little more understanding.
The party was at her friend Rachel’s house, and during the party, Melinda attracts the attention of a “Greek God” (as she describes him) named Andy Evans. After a bit of flirting and kissing, Andy decides to take it to the next level. Melinda tries to say no and fight him off, but he overpowers her and rapes her. Afterward, she is in shock. She picks up the phone to call 911, but she can’t find the words. She’s completely silent on the phone. Emergency dispatchers can trace your call without you saying a word, and they did. The cops arrived to the party and from that point, Rachel became furious with Melinda and would not speak to her. And to add insult to injury, Rachel starts dating Andy Evans.
What I find so powerful about this book is Melinda’s ability to find strength within her own self to heal from such a traumatizing event at such a young age. There is a part in the book where she is home sick from school and her way of coming to terms with what really happened to her was making her situation the topic of talk shows (specifically, Jerry Springer, Sally Jesse Raphael and Oprah). I thought it was clever of Anderson to use talk shows as an analogy of her finally admitting what happened and beginning to come to terms with it.
Melinda also finds strength and solace in her art class. Melinda narrates the novel, but it reads like a diary. She barely speaks throughout the story, but she manages to find her voice in her art. She discovers that sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words and can say a lot more than she ever physically could. I think this is something a lot of people can relate to, whether it be art, music or writing; everyone needs an outlet of self-expression, especially when they can’t find the words themselves.
Melinda’s story begins tragically. She has no friends, she’s very depressed and she can’t seem to find her voice. Throughout the book, the readers get to watch Melinda come to the realization that she is not a victim, but a survivor, and that instead of staying silent on what happened to her, she should speak.