`Speak’ a brutally honest portrayal of not fitting the high school mold | PostIndependent.com

`Speak’ a brutally honest portrayal of not fitting the high school mold

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; 198 pages; Puffin Books; $7.99.

Beginning high school without a friend is like trying to read a book in the dark. High school represents a stage in life that is chaotic, confusing, exciting, and emotionally trying. It is supposedly the best times of our lives.

But for Melinda Sordino, high school embodies the very essence of hell on earth. An event during the summer has rendered her the most despised person at school, and she enters her ninth grade year alone. But there is more to her story than anyone knows, and it is her secret that keeps her mute among the hateful glares and searing remarks.

“Speak” is a brutally honest portrayal of the shrewd nature of high school cliques and the impact of not belonging.

Detached from mainstream society, Melinda relates her satirical description of the many groups at her school: “Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders.” Her thoughts and analyses are darkly humorous. Melinda exemplifies the high school experience for those who don’t fit the standard mold.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing style gives Melinda a spunky, witty personality. Readers exist in the high school realm by vicariously experiencing her raw emotions.

Melinda’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is cynicism makes the story believable. It becomes easy to lose yourself in her thoughts and feel exactly what she is feeling and understand exactly what she is communicating.

Her observations of high school are dead-on, even down to the age-old perplexity of lunch: “I know enough not to bring lunch on the first day of school. There is no way of telling what the acceptable fashion will be. Brown bags-humble testament to suburbia, or terminal geek gear? Insulated lunch bags-hip way to save the planet, or sign of an overinvolved mother? Buying is the only solution.”

Though Melinda’s painful secret is somewhat predictable, it still gives the story page-turning qualities: “I have worked so hard to forget every second of that stupid party, and here I was in the middle of a hostile crowd that hates me for what I had to do. I can’t tell them what really happened. I can’t even look at that part myself.”

The nature of what occurred during the summer becomes evident early on, but it is the need to find closure for Melinda that keeps readers coming back for more.

Melinda is a character that we can all relate to by means of our inner ostracized geek. Doubt, ridicule, and clique politics are unavoidable elements of high school. Melinda embodies them all and perseveres. She is strong, witty, and zealously honest.

A prime example is her list of the “First 10 Lies They Tell You in High School: 1.) We are here to help you. 2.) You will have enough time to get to your class before the bell rings. 3.) The dress code will be enforced.” She is a likable, legitimate character with a remarkable insight to teenage life.

– Reviewer Jessi Rochel is a senior at Roaring Fork High School.

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