CBR11 Bingo: Youths!
This was one of those books that I had heard of but really didn’t know what it was about. I picked it up at a discount book sale based on name recognition alone; when I needed a YA selection for this bingo square, I dug it out of the TBR pile.
Speak is a novel about a girl named Melinda, and picks up just as she starts her first year of high school. From day one she is a social outcast due to the fact that she called the cops on a wild end-of-summer party a few weeks before. Her former friends in her freshman class have abandoned her, the older kids already know (and hate) her, and she is subjected to bullying immediately.
(Spoilers to follow) It doesn’t take long to learn that she was raped by a senior while under the influence at the party; in her shock, that was the reason she called 911; she froze on the phone and didn’t report the rape, and didn’t tell her friends or family either.
Yes, this is a story about rape and could be a novel about the #metoo movement…. but it’s also a story about depression and mental health. As Melinda continues to suffer in silence and pain, we are witness to her inner monologue and see the path that her depression takes. It’s heartbreaking to see her classmates write her off as “weird”, to see her parents and teachers view her as a “troubled teen”, when in reality she is traumatized and in need of help (not discipline).
I happened to have picked up a 20th anniversary edition, in which the author included a preface acknowledging the thousands of letters that she has received, the thousands of teens (guys AND girls) who have written to her to tell their stories of rape, abuse, and depression. This little book has been instrumental in encouraging teenagers to speak up, get help, tell their story, and for that reason, I think it should be required reading for any teen and anyone with a teen in their life.