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September 3, 2013

ReaLITy Reads: Alex’s Response to SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson


Realistic fiction is a unique genre in YA because it illustrates challenging situations you may not have personally experienced but connects you to emotions you have. Whether it's uncovering life-altering secrets, making a tough choice, coming to terms with your sexuality or finding your voice, realistic fiction addresses themes relevant to real life. To highlight some of their fantastic realistic fiction, Macmillan established their ReaLITy program. Our Teen Board decided to check out these reads and respond to them in this blog series.

“It's easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, SPEAK

I am not much of a talker. I don't mind chats about what's on television or the latest music, but when it comes to the big stuff, the problems, the things that matter, I go mute. I can walk around for days barely speaking when I have a problem on my mind, refusing to answer the "are you okay"s and "what's going on"s. You see, I have to internalize issues. I think through what's going on and tackle it alone.

I don't speak. And this novel made me wonder if I should.

I think that I connected to this book on a personal level so much because of the main character, Melinda, simply due to the fact that she is so utterly normal. She might be anyone around you --- a neighbor, a friend, a classmate. What happened to Melinda could happen to anybody. The book is a work of fiction, but you finish it feeling denied the pleasure of knowing the events would never occur in real life.

My favorite books are the ones where not only the protagonist develops, but the reader does, too. SPEAK was one of those books. I felt like I was learning how to express my emotions alongside Melinda. While I haven't gone through the same situations as her, there are little pieces of
myself I see in her, and that's what made the novel special.

The further you go into the book, the more you learn about Melinda. It's like you're meeting a new friend, and like you would with a friend, you genuinely get attached to them. You root for her, and when she begins to speak out, there's a flicker ignited somewhere inside you that makes you want to speak out, too. You begin to realize that keeping quiet can't solve all your problems. The book starts a movement and is a read I would highly recommend to teens, lovers of realistic fiction and anyone who, like me, possesses a quiet mouth and a loud mind.