***This review contains SPOILERS***
One mistake I ever made before reading this book was reading the reviews. Some reviews didn’t have any spoiler warnings so of course, I got to know the main denouement of the story. This is why I had put up a spoiler warning at the start of this review for the benefit of those who had not read the book yet.
Melinda Sordino, the main character and the narrator, was a ninth grader at Merryweather High, and from the moment classes started, she knew she would be an outcast, not belonging to any of the recognized high school clans such as Goths, Jocks, Cheerleaders, or Artists and surviving high school all by herself. And so she tried to find solace inside her head, labelling her teachers (Hairwoman, Mr. Neck) and classmates (Rachel/Rachelle) in her thoughts, but it wasn’t peaceful inside her head either. For there she was still haunted by a trauma she wished she wouldn’t ever remember, and there she faced the dilemma of speaking out or shutting up about it.
Because you see, Melinda Sordino was only fifteen. And she was raped.
Speak is both tragic and real. Rape in itself is tragic enough, but having a teenager to go through it, just when she (or he, it can be possible) is trying to build her identity and her dreams, is as shattering as it is real.
Belongingness is vital in every teen’s life, and peer acceptance and approval play a major part in one’s self-image. Melinda lost all her friends in high school and who would want to hang out with someone disliked by almost everybody? By calling the cops in the middle of an end of summer party, Melinda knew it was the end of her social life. But at the time, she might have thought there’s no more social life, much more a life left to protect because she was raped.
And of course, there was the dilemma, to speak out or shut up about the rape. Who really listens to teenagers? Not all grown-ups do. Most adults are busy with their own lives, too, and the cares of a teen are only trivial, right? And this was true with Melinda who always found her parents arguing about her but not really listening to her. Why speak up when no one listens? And so she resorted to writing graffiti on the bathroom wall, which, amazingly, sent her message across.
What struck me most about Melinda Sordino was her apparent lack of emotion. She didn’t talk much about her feelings, which could be expected from a rape victim who probable wanted to erase the memory of it from her mind. And so she talked instead about her teachers and their respective eccentricities, her parents and their arguments, her dwindling grades except for Art.
I like the sarcasm of Melinda and the dry humor of her observations of the world she’s in. I like her honesty and her cynicism. Her angst is real, though of course not necessarily the picture of a typical teenager if I may say.
Speak is a powerful and liberating novel and I greatly recommend it to those who are in their teenage years. It is an easy read, sentences are short, so those who do not read that much can bear reading this. Speak sends a message to all, young and old, rape victim or not, to speak out when called for, and to be brave for oneself at all times.
My copy: Hardbound copy, a gift from the Goodreads-The Filipino Group moderator and book blogger, Jzhun. (Thanks!)
12/50 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge.