By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. (from goodreads.com)
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. I'm not a huge fan of giving a bad review to books because I think that alot of it is personal opinion and that every book out there has value to someone. This book in particular I'd imagine has a great value to alot of young girls. There were just some glaring issues for me. I'll start with what killed this book for me and then give the good parts (we can at least end on a positive note).
This book was set in Syracuse, NY circa 1999(ish)- I happen to be a born and raised Syracuse native, who was a high schooler circa 1999. Immediately I'm thinking this should be pretty good. Anderson made up a high school, which I'm okay with, but as the book goes on I realize that almost every landmark in the book is also made up. This for me was a huge distraction and literally ruined this book. Every few pages I'd be trying to place the bakery or store mentioned, trying to figure out where exactly this person lives because it certainely doesn't sound like Syracuse. Perhaps a suburb, but then she wouldn't live in Syracuse- She travels west to get to the big city...so she must be an east-sider. East Syracuse maybe, Dewitt? But wait, the prom is at the Route 11 Holiday in- Route 11 is in North Syracuse, but there's no Holiday in on Route 11 in the Syracuse area. These are the little things that went through my mind the entire time I read the book. I literally had to google just about eery landmark trying to figure this book out- what did I find? Nothing. No Fayette's bakery (could she mean Harrison's, Columbus'?), no Holiday in on Route 11, no Efferts Department store and no fountains at any of the area malls. I realize that this would not be an issue for the vast majority of the readers on Speak, but for those of us who live in this area, it is a glaring issue, and in this instance, pretty much killed this book for me.
Now on to the good stuff. Barring the Syracuse issues- this book was awesome. Her charecter of Melinda was spot on, as were the dynamics of high school. She showed the cliques and how it feels to be an outsider excellently. She also really dealt with Melinda's trauma and how she tried to live with the aftermath in a way that was relatable. The relationships in the book were well written, especially the deterioration of the relationship with her parents, who are so wrapped up in their own worlds, to realize that Melinda's is falling apart. I also loved the teachers in the book- they were spot on, especially the Art teacher, who offers a little guidance and alot of freedom to Melinda as she tries to work through her problems.
Overall, I would recommend this book to just about everyone. The issues I had with it are certainly not ones that would effect 99% of the readers out there and it would be a shame for them to miss out on a great book.