✶ Summary ✶
Speak follows Melinda Sordino as she starts her first year of high school. The story follows her as she goes from class to class, day to day. We hear every thought she has. The first instance of bullying happens on page 5, when one of her former friends, Rachel, mouths “I hate you” to Melinda and laughs at her with her other friends. At this point in the story, we don’t know why she is an outcast and what everyone dislikes about her. She just floats along alone, constantly thinking about what others are thinking about her. The bullying continues, she gets bumped in the hallway, gets her books ripped from her arms. We first see signs of her depression on page 16, when she can’t resist her bed. The pillows and comforter call to her. She abandons all hope of doing homework to curl up in her bed. Not to sleep, just to lay there. This scene also mentions her nibbling on her lip, a habit she has throughout the book. Anxiety? In another scene with a new friend, Heather, a new student who has no one else, Melinda thinks about how she used to be like Heather. Happy, driven, lots of energy. But all Melinda wants to do is go home and nap. On page 27, we find out why she is disliked by everyone. She called the cops at an end-of-summer party. What started as Melinda finally starting to participate in school, at a pep rally, has brought up the event that changed her. Her throat feels like it’s closing up, her stomach is in knots. The girls behind her jab their knees into her back, they pull her hair. Throughout the book so far, Melinda has barely spoken. To anyone. Not her family, her teachers, her new friend. She is unable to. Her throat feels sore, her lips are raw, jaws clenched. She sputters, freezes. On page 81, she’s in her biology class. They’re dissecting frogs. The frog is laid out, legs pinned down. The frog is quiet, dead. Melinda passes out. On page 87, Melinda is thinking about self-harm. She continuously drags a paperclip end across her wrist until it’s covered in bloody lines, and she stops feeling it. Her mom tells her she doesn’t have time for this. “Suicide is for cowards.” On page 90, popular boy, Andy Evans, is introduced. The girls at lunch gossip about him. He talks to them, standing behind Melinda as her jaw locks closed, and she tries to shrink away to nothing. He plays with her hair. On page 105, her new friend, Heather, dumps her because she is “the most depressed person” she has ever met. On page 135, we find out what happened at the party. Seventeen year old Andy Evans took drunk thirteen year old Melinda out in the woods, held her down, and raped her. When he gets off her, he smiles. Melinda is hurt and doesn’t know what to do. She calls 911. Everyone gets mad at her, they slap her. Knock her to the ground. She crawls away and runs home. On page 145, a former friend, Ivy, begins to speak to her again. Throughout the rest of the book this continues. Little conversations here and there. She shows her kindness. Prom is close, and Melinda finds out Rachel is going with Andy. Melinda feels conflicted about whether she should warn her or not. She writes her a note. Melinda is slowly starting to stand up for herself, to speak. Heather comes crawling back, and Melinda tells her no. Melinda verbally warns Rachel about Andy. She tells her what happened. Rachel yells at her, calls her a liar. But when prom rolls around, Rachel ditched Andy in the middle of it. He had his hands all over her, and she went off. She told him she knew what he did to Melinda. It’s the end of the year now, and Melinda is cleaning out a closet at school she used to hide in. She feels like she doesn’t need it anymore. Andy finds her there and locks himself in the closet with her. He goes off on her about spreading lies. He says she wanted it. He grabs her, kisses her. He grabs her wrists and holds her against the wall. She opens her mouth and yells. She begins fighting back. She breaks a mirror, grabs a shard of glass, and holds it against his throat. “I said no.” By this point, people are outside the closet and someone goes and gets help. The book ends on the last day of school. Melinda turns in her final art project. Her teacher sees the emotion in it, in the year she’s had. He says, “You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?” The last line of the book is Melinda responding, “Let me tell you about it.”
✶ Non-toxicity ✶
This book is very important. This book shows the aftermath of a rape. A young girl, barely a teenager, goes through a traumatic event and becomes a shell of herself. She’s depressed. She’s nearly mute. But over time, she slowly heals. Bit by bit, she puts herself back together. She will never be who she was before. Not completely. But she can be more than empty. She learns to speak again. To speak for herself. This book is important for everyone to read, but especially teens. It accurately shows depression. It doesn’t glorify it. It shows the dirty truth. Melinda is alone. She can barely leave her bed. She has trouble going to class. Her grades suffer. She doesn’t do much for fun. Teens need to learn about this behavior, to be warned. In the back of the book, the author does a Q&A. She says she has been repeatedly asked by young men why Melinda was so upset about being raped. Because of the way sex is presented in media, young men aren’t taught what it truly  means. This book was published in 1999, and this Q&A was from 2009. In 2021, sexual assault awareness is probably the best it’s ever been, but there are still people out there that need to be taught these lessons. This book is an accurate representation, is beautifully written, and is a fictional story you can be pulled into but still educated by.
✶ Quotes ✶
I used to be like Heather. Have I changed that much in two months? She is happy, driven, aerobically fit. She has a nice mom and an awesome television. But she’s like a dog that keeps jumping into your lap. She always walks with me down the halls chattering a million miles a minute. My goal is to go home and take a nap.
You don’t understand, my headvoice answers. Too bad she can’t hear it. My throat squeezes shut, as if two hands of black fingernails are clamped on my windpipe. I have worked so hard to forget every second of that stupid party, and here I am 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 of myself. An animal noise rustles in my stomach.
It feels like the Prince of Darkness has swept his cloak over the table. The lights dim. I shiver. Andy stands behind me to flirt with Emily. I lean into the table to stay as far away from him as I can. The table saws me in half. Emily’s mouth moves, the fluorescent lights glittering on her teeth. The other girls scratch toward Emily to soak up her Attractiveness Rays. Andy must be talking too, I can feel deep vibrations in my backbone, like a thudding speaker. I can’t hear the words. He twirls my ponytail in his fingers. Emily’s eyes narrow. I mumble something idiotic and run for the bathroom. I heave lunch into the toilet, then wash my face with the ice water that comes out of the Hot faucet. Heather does not come looking for me.
 I’m on a roll. I’m rocking. I don’t know what it is; standing up to Heather, planting marigold seeds, or maybe the look on Mom’s face when I asked if she would let me redecorate my room. The time has come to arm-wrestle some demons. Too much sun after Syracuse winter does strange things to your head, makes you feel strong, even if you aren’t.
✶ Photo gallery ✶

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