Introduction to Speak

Speak is a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. It was first published in 1999, to immediate critical acclaim. It won numerous accolades and was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. Since its publication, the novel has remained popular in English classrooms due to its poignant depiction of trauma, recovery, and personal empowerment. However, because it deals with sexual assault and emotional trauma, the book has also been frequently challenged and censored. Anderson has since revealed that the events of Speak were based on her own experience with sexual assault, which she discusses further in her 2019 memoir, Shout

Speak is a social novel, with the primary themes focusing on trauma, recovery, and identity reformation. Protagonist Melinda’s experiences with social and emotional isolation in the aftermath of her assault highlight the importance of friendship and support. Instead of receiving the understanding she deserves from her peers, Melinda is ostracized and prevented from speaking the truth about her experiences. It is ultimately the rediscovery of her creative voice that allows Melinda to begin reconstructing her identity, highlighting the importance of art and individuality.

A Brief Biography of Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson (born 1961) is an American author whose works are primarily targeted towards young adults. Born in Potsdam, New York, Anderson was an avid reader from a young age, and her parents encouraged both her literary and linguistic pursuits. Her family also encouraged her passion for travel and world cultures, and Anderson spent thirteen months on a Danish pig farm as an exchange student when she was sixteen. Upon returning to the states, she attended college and began studying language and linguistics. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist while also raising her two daughters. She did not publish her first independent work, a children’s book set in Kenya called Ndito Runs, until 1996. The publication of her young adult novel Speak, which depicts the aftermath of sexual assault, in 1999 brought Anderson national recognition, with critics praising the novel’s thoughtful portrayal of trauma and serious consideration of adolescent identity development. Anderson has since released several other notable works of teen and young adult fiction, as well as an assortment of historical novels. Anderson’s 2019 memoir Shout explores the autobiographical elements that inspired her to write Speak.

Frequently Asked Questions about Speak

Speak

Melinda discovers the janitor's closet at her school when she's trying to hide from her social studies teacher, Mr. Neck. She looks around and realizes that it's an old and abandoned place that is...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 12:13 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Melinda dislikes mirrors because she dislikes her reflection; the person she sees in the mirror is not her old self but someone who is broken and damaged, someone she believes is undeserving of...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 2:23 pm (UTC)

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Speak

The person who helps Melinda most as she seeks to uncover her voice is her art teacher, Mr. Freeman. Unlike the other adults in the novel, Mr. Freeman is free-spirited, sensitive, and honest. He...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 1:19 pm (UTC)

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Speak

During art class, Melinda asks Mr. Freeman to allow her to go to the bathroom to clean her blouse after her classmate (and former friend) Ivy accidentally spilled marker ink on her shirt. Mr....

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 1:32 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Melinda Sordino is the fourteen-year-old protagonist of Laurie Halse Anderson's young adult novel Speak. The story opens on Melinda's first day of high school, which she detests. Intelligent,...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 12:23 pm (UTC)

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At the beginning of the year, Mr. Freeman assigns everyone in the art class a theme. All their art projects for the year must revolve around this theme, he explains. Melinda is assigned the theme...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 12:57 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who was raped at a party the summer before she began high school. The night of the party, Melinda...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 1:49 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Ultimately, this book by Laurie Halse Anderson is called Speak because it tells the story of one girl's journey toward speaking up and sharing her experiences after a traumatic event. For a...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 3:50 pm (UTC)

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Speak

In the novel Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, the protagonist Melinda Sordino narrates her first year of high school. After calling the cops on a party over the summer, Melinda has been abandoned...

Latest answer posted January 8, 2021, 2:42 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Speak has several powerful symbols that can be found in the story, and one of those symbols is Melinda's lips. Melinda's lips are dry, cracked, scarred, bitten, bloody, ragged, and disgusting...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 1:44 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Nicole, Ivy, Rachel, and Melinda were actually good friend in middle school and called themselves the "Plain Janes." After the party, however, when Melinda was raped by Andy, their group fell apart...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 1:56 pm (UTC)

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Apples appear at different times during Speak. At one point early on in the story, the Marathas arrive with trays of mini muffins and apple slices. Yet the most significant moment involving an...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 2:25 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Without a bit more context, this question could have a variety of answers. One could say that Melinda wants nothing more than to be left alone. It's why she hides herself in the closet at school....

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 3:49 pm (UTC)

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Speak

On a warm and sunny Saturday morning, Melinda finds out that her dad has hired people to cut down the dying branches of their oak tree. She goes down to see what's happening and overhears her dad...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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In Ms. Keen's biology class, the students are given the assignment to dissect frogs in order to learn anatomy. Some of the students are excited, like Melinda's lab partner, David Petrakis, who...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 12:46 pm (UTC)

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When Melinda finds out that Rachel is dating Andy and that they're going to prom together, she decides that she can no longer stay silent and that she has to warn Rachel about Andy. She must tell...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 1:44 pm (UTC)

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Overall, David Petrakis is a fairly minor character in the book; however, that does not diminish his impact on Melinda and her state of mind. Prior to the events of the story, Melinda was raped....

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 1:46 pm (UTC)

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Speak

Melinda skips school for the first time when she doesn't hear her alarm in the morning and doesn't wake up on time; as a result, she misses the bus to school. Her mom then tells her that she must...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 3:18 pm (UTC)

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After her traumatic experience with Andy, who forces himself onto her and rapes her, at the party, Melinda cannot stand to look at herself in a mirror. Whenever she sees a mirror and catches a...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 11:48 am (UTC)

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Speak

Melinda's life drastically changes when she's sexually assaulted at a party by a senior named Andy Evans just before she starts her freshman year in high school. She doesn't tell anyone about her...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 12:55 pm (UTC)

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Melinda is a freshman in high school in the book Speak, so she has multiple teachers that specialize in a subject rather than a single classroom teacher that is a generalist in many subjects. Speak...

Latest answer posted January 9, 2021, 1:30 pm (UTC)

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Summary