Probably over 20-years ago now, I found a book called Speak. It was one of those books that kicked you in the face, butt and anyplace else that was exposed. Twenty years ago, sex was not really mainstream in young adult novels yet, and for sure rape was not even thought about let alone mentioned or written about. Then came Speak. I always said it was not a book about rape. I mean it is but there is so much more to it. It is about the fact the students are not speaking to her, her parents are not speaking to each other but yelling, they do not really speak to her, even her teachers are not speaking to her (except an art teacher) but she is not listening. The only person who is speaking to her and she is listening to is the rapist. A line that made me ill, scream, cry and know that Laurie Halse Anderson was an AMAZING F’ING AUTHOR was when the characters rapist walks up to her and whispers, “Fresh meat.” When I read the graphic novel, I knew it was coming, but still that gut-wrench came back.
Why is Speak so horrific? Because much of Anderson’s own experiences went into the story of Melanie. Therefore, when I heard there was going to be Shout, her experiences getting her to finally write Speak I was excited.
However, while Shout has many of the elements I like in a book (edgy story, prose poetry, Anderson as an author) and it is because of that, it is a good book, it was not great. It is slow reading since some poems are “simple” and the point is obvious and others you need to digest. I was only able to read a few poems at a time. Most of the story is as if Anderson was talking to someone about the experiences, not living in the moment. She is telling her past as the Knowing Narrator of Now. And there is a lot of #MeToo and #TimesUp mentality (which is understandable, but sometimes feels repetitive.) Like Speak, this is for ages 14 to adult. If you are a fan of Speak this companion is worth reading. However, I do recommend reading Speak first.