The first ten lies they tell you in high school.
"Speak up for yourselfwe want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
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About the Author
Anderson was born in Potsdam, New York in 1961. Growing up, she loved reading and listening to family stories. She graduated from Georgetown University in 1984. Before becoming a full-time writer, she was freelance journalist, and then worked part-time at a bookstore to earn money while working on her fiction. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes.
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Davies Guttmann was born in 1966 in Vienna, were he lives with his wife and their four children.
He started his business life 1988 as editor of the leading Austrian stock market letter. Many other financial publications followed. Guttmann also worked for various newspapers as a financial journalist. In the 90ies he was co-publisher of werk-zeug, a technology and art magazine, as well as Streetfashion, a magazine featuring fashionable people on the streets of the world.
After this Guttmann worked as a Alternative Investment and Private Equity specialist.
In recent years he started to concentrate expertly on historical and contemporary literature and edited books on these topics as well as on the authors.
Table of Contents
FIRST MARKING PERIOD,
WELCOME TO MERRYWEATHER HIGH,
OUR TEACHERS ARE THE BEST ...,
OUR FEARLESS LEADER,
THE OPPOSITE OF INSPIRATION IS ... EXPIRATION?,
STUDENT DIVIDED BY CONFUSION EQUALS ALGEBRA,
NAME NAME NAME,
MY REPORT CARD:,
SECOND MARKING PERIOD,
GO______________ (FILL IN THE BLANK)!,
ALL TOGETHER NOW,
PEELED AND CORED,
FIRST AMENDMENT, SECOND VERSE,
COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES,
DEATH BY ALGEBRA,
NAMING THE MONSTER,
RENT ROUND 3,
MY REPORT CARD,
THIRD MARKING PERIOD,
DEATH OF THE WOMBAT,
COLD WEATHER AND BUSES,
CUTTING OUT HEARTS,
OUR LADY OF THE WAITING ROOM,
CLASH OF THE TITANS,
HALL OF MIRRORS,
SNOW DAY — SCHOOL AS USUAL,
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER,
MY REPORT CARD:,
FOURTH MARKING PERIOD,
THE WET SEASON,
MY LIFE AS A SPY,
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE,
ADVICE FROM A SMART MOUTH,
THE BEAST PROWLS,
OPRAH, SALLY JESSY, JERRY, AND ME,
HAIRWOMAN NO MORE,
LITTLE WRITING ON THE WALL,
Praise for SPEAK,
HERE'S THE THING ...,
LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON SPEAKS ABOUT SPEAK ..,
A COMMENT ABOUT CENSORSHIP,
SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVOR RESOURCES,
Reading Group Guide
• Discuss the title of the novel and its significance. What roles do silence and truth play in the story?
• Is there a relationship between speaking and listening? Can one exist without the other?
• What is friendship? Describe the important elements of Melinda’s relationships with Heather, Ivy, Nicole, and Rachel. Is she ever really friends with any of them? Can friendship mean something different to different people? Cite different passages in the novel as evidence of your opinion.
• Melinda says: “It is 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.”Do you agree with her? Why or why not? Do the events in the novel support or negate her statement? Does her outlook change at any point in the novel? How so?
• What keeps Melinda silent? What is she afraid of?
• Discuss the social hierarchy of Merryweather High. What role does the concept of identity play in the novel? Why is belonging to one of the many clans so important to Heather and so unimportant to Melinda?
• Why does Melinda isolate herself from her friends? Is she justified in doing so?
• Melinda nicknames many of the other characters throughout the novel. Discuss the significance of this habit and how it contributes to the development of the story and your experience as a reader.
• Why do you think Melinda refers to Andy Evans as IT in the beginning of the novel? At what point does she start to call him by name? Why?
• In what places is Melinda able to find sanctuary at school? How do the characteristics of these places provide a window into her character?
• What does Melinda learn in art class? What does the tree she spends the year creating finally come to symbolize?
• How does David Petrakis contribute to Melinda’s quest to find her voice? How does Mr. Freeman influence her? What role do her parents and the other adults in the novel play in Melinda’s journey?
• Despite her internal sense of humor, Melinda seems depressed to the outside world. In what ways is her depression evident? How do the people around her react to her behavior? Do you think they respond appropriately? How would you respond?
• What role does rumor play in the story? Discuss how rumors and truth can be connected. Is one more powerful than the other?
• Reflect on Melinda and Rachel’s written conversation they have in the library. Discuss Rachel’s reaction to what Melinda tells her. Why do you think she behaves as she does? Does she believe Melinda?
• How does nature manifest itself in the story line and contribute to meaning? Discuss how the changing of the seasons could be argued to mirror Melinda’s ability to speak.
• Is it possible to speak without spoken words? Why or why not? Identify passages in the novel to support your position.
• Discuss the ending of the book and the relevance of the last scene. • What finally allows Melinda to speak?