I’ve ‘book talked’ Speak often and used Anderson’s 10th anniversary poem to celebrate Banned Books Week this school year. We ‘library ladies’ at Chaffey and Colony have had such a great response to the book that it feels like everyone knows about it. But that may be off the mark—and it is one of the best books about school harassment that I’ve read. So, since it’s on some quality summer reading lists, I didn’t want to leave it off here. If you missed it, this is one to have on your own summer list.
Just before the start of her freshman year, Melinda makes a 911 call to break up a party. When her classmates find out that she was the caller, she is ostracized—no one will speak to her or interact with her in any way, except one new girl that Melinda doesn’t actually like.
Melinda loses her voice. She is utterly silent and alone. It won’t take you very long to figure out what happened to her at the party and why she called 911, but you will feel such compassion for her as she tries to make her way back to normalcy. The way the book is broken into grading periods, with Melinda’s grades sinking further in each quarter, is creative. You’ll identify with the narrative of the kids at school who torment her and of the school employees who are less than helpful. But Melinda has that one great teacher that everyone needs—in her case, it’s her art teacher—and he helps her to find her voice.
While the final scenes in which Melinda must find her voice might be a bit unrealistic, you’ll still be cheering out loud for her. This is one of the books you’ll always remember. After you read it, watch Anderson’s reading of her poem celebrating Speak’s 10th anniversary. Find it here.