What year does the story take place in the book Speak?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We are never actually given a precise date in which the novel is set. However, if we consider the various cultural references and the kind of slang language that is used, we can effectively identify a decade. Consider the following list of the groups that Melinda refers to as being present in her school, and from which she is excluded:

We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders.

If we examine this list of the various "clans" that there are at Melinda's high school this leads us towards the conclusion that this excellent novel must be set somewhere in the 1990s due to the cultural reference points we are given here and elsewhere. In a sense, however, one of the great enduring values of this story, which still means that it is being read and studied today, is that, although it is located in a specific millieu, at the same time its theme is universal and is something that can be related to by students nowadays.