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Title: Speak

Writer: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Speak, Penguin Group (2006, Platinum Edition)

Pages: 198 p

Bought at: Barnes & Noble, Washington, DC (USD 10)

Because of an out of control party, Melinda Sordino had ended her summer badly, making her as a common enemy of the students in her school. The fact that she just started her high school this fall doesn’t help either. Her old friends don’t want to talk to her anymore and even the kids she didn’t know before hate her nevertheless.

After that traumatic summer night, Melinda can’t speak like she used to. Her parents don’t understand her, thinking this is just another rebellious teenage phase. Her grades are sinking and she doesn’t have any friends to talk to. To make things worse, the person causing this nightmare is right there with her in the same school, adored by every girl and becomes the most popular guy around.

Speak is the second Laurie Anderson’s book I’ve read after Catalyst. And the strong plot, deep sentences, and rich meanings, stay the same. The book used Melinda’s hidden voice as the point of view, and I can relate well with her. Her fear and struggles of saying the truth, her instinct to runaway every time she sees IT (that’s what she called the guy). Sometimes I just want to shake her and tell her to just SPEAK! But sexual harassment is not that simple. Lots of factors are involved, and people often can’t see what they don’t want to see.

I also like the side story about Melinda’s art teacher, Mr. Freeman, who had his own struggle, choosing to speak the truth and got into trouble instead. And he gave a cool assignment for his students, kind of like a therapy for Melinda too. This is another strong point in Laurie’s books. There is nothing to waste. Every side story has a message related to the whole book. And her theme always have strong messages for young adults, particularly teenage girls. Bullying and sexual harassment became big issues in teenage world, including in Indonesia, and I do hope one day we have writers who write these issues in their books (instead of just writing about teenage love stories all the time!).

The cover is another thing I love about this book, and because this is a Platinum Edition, it has extra bonus materials, including an interview with Laurie Anderson. Speak has been adapted into a movie in 2004, staring Kristen Stewart before she even met the bloodless vampire. The critics said that the movie didn’t capture the essence of the book, but somehow I am curious to watch a different side of K-Stew, so I probably will look for the movie anyway =)