Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson

SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In addition to having the goal of reading through as many of the award winning books as possible [Newbery, Printz, National Book, Pulitzer, etc.] I had extra motivation for reading this book. Early in the school year the English teacher at my school assigned this to her freshmen. Shortly thereafter, one of the freshmen [from a conservative family] had her parents withdraw her from school. I was in a meeting, I think National Honor Society [NHS] Advisory Council, when the news came [as the mom was filling out paperwork] and the English teacher and NHS adviser mentioned she felt it was partly her fault because she handled a situation [as it later turned out, over this book] incorrectly. I was told differently by the superintendent, but none-the-less my interest in the book was piqued.

[[spoiler]]I knew the book was about a girl trying to cope with being raped[[/spoiler]]. However, I didn't know a lot else about the book and had trouble getting a hold of a copy of it on audio because it always seemed to be checked out from the library. When it did finally come in I was in the middle of a long book and by the time I finished it had been due back and I had to wait again. In the meantime, my wife picked it up while subbing for that English teacher one day and finished it the next day in less than 24 hours. I did the same. I listened to it in one day after starting and finishing My Beloved Brontosaurus earlier the same day.

The book was good and hard to put down, but I didn't think it was great. It dealt with real-world teen problems from school and social life. I can certainly see the appeal of this book to teens and to making them think about how they would respond to such a situation whether victim, perpetrator, bystander, or friend/outsider. I do wish that the book would have dealt with the plot on a different timeline or delved more into the resolution of the climax. It feels a bit formulaic to have a novel about teens start at the beginning of the school year and finally defeat Voldemort again come to resolution at the end of the school year just in time for summer break. Understand why it won the awards it did and received the recognition it did. Like my wife, I can understand why parents would be concerned about this book, but I cannot see myself sheltering students from such a book [I don't remember a lot of language, but there was one surprising use of f***, and normal public high school talk of sex and drinking without being approving or graphic]. I cannot imagine (at least right now) that I would object to my daughters reading this in high school. I certainly, think earlier than that is probably inappropriate, but it in no way glorifies the evil act and it does not re-victimize the victim unnecessarily [that is, she does it to herself some, but it is not consciously done by outsiders, nor is this treatment condoned]. We cannot, and should not, protect our children and students from everything.

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