All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

on October 16, 2010

This novel caused quite the hoo-haa around the Internetz recently, most predominantly that I saw, on Twitter. The Speak Loudly campaign was alive and well among the book bloggers I follow and it intrigued me. My friend Ree from over at Literary Obsession has an excellent post on what was going on here but from what I can gather someone – a man named Wesley Scroggins – spoke out against this book wanting it banned. I don’t particularly agree with banning books and I don’t particularly agree with anyone telling me what I can and cannot read. Scroggins described this book as a “filthy book, demeaning to education” and as “soft core pornography”.

Has he even read this novel?

After seeing all of the twitter posts and the blog posts and the altered avatars to proclaim the SPEAK LOUDLY slogan, I sought this book out. To my surprise, it was currently in stock at my local library so I scooted down to pick it up. It was the fourth book I read for the recent Read-A-Thon and I devoured it in no time.

I’m not going to spoil this book too much, although most people might know what it’s about by now and it’s not too hard to guess right away either. But because I think it’s one of those ones best read when the reader goes in with only the vaguest ideas of what is behind the story. The less you know, the more you can be shown. It revolves around 14yo Melinda who is starting a new school year. She has been ostracized by everyone she knows for calling the police at a party at the end of the previous school year. The police arrival obviously broke up the party and now all her school friends and fellow students are blaming her and indulge in some bullying and tormenting. On top of this, Melinda has a terrible home life, with distant, work-a-holic parents who are quite clueless. They see their daughter, who had good marks last school year, who had friends, who was happy disintegrate into a girl who never leaves the house, who is constantly being called in and spoken to about her sliding grades and all they can do is yell and threaten her. They don’t ever question what might have happened to her, to bring about this change and honestly, I don’t think they care.

There’s no way this book should be banned. To say that it’s detrimental to education, to claim that it’s softcore pornography just might be the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard. If anything, this book should be mandatory reading for high schoolers. If I had a teenage daughter, I’d make her read this book. It’s so well written, with a heart-breaking realism. You feel this girls isolation, you are with her every step of her lonely journey. She cannot speak after what has happened to her and no matter what sort of torture the school kids put her through, no matter how her parents yell at her and berate her about her grades, she still cannot speak. Until one of her former-friends is in danger. And then Melinda makes the brave decision to speak up. To try and tell her story.

This is a wonderful book. Even though it wasn’t always an easy book to read and the subject matter was serious and a bit depressing, I could not tear myself away from it. This is the sort of book that could be used in such a positive way. I hope that Mr Scroggins realises that all his diatribe has done has make people flock to this book. To read it, to cry out in support of it, to drum up publicity for it. I hope he realises that in speaking out against it, he has caused it so much attention that it might otherwise have not normally had at this point in time. That so many people who might not have been aware of this book, now know about it thanks to him. And have read it and passed it on and talked about it and blogged about it and praised it for what it is. I hope he realises that his ridiculous words have not had the effect that he hoped for.

I thought we were past the age of banning books. I thought that was behind us, but apparently not. I’m strongly against banning books, and I’m even more strongly against any kind of dictatorship who wants to pass judgement on what should be and what should not be available for public consumption and purchase. I’m grateful that my parents encouraged my reading and I was allowed to read well above my years. I remember in primary school, my mother worked voluntarily in the Library. The Librarian sent her home with a book to read named Goodnight Mr Tom because the principal wanted to ban it from the school library. My mother read it and then passed it onto me to see what I thought. I loved that book. In fact I loved it so much that my mother and father bought me my own copy of it. They bought me the copy from the state-wide primary school bookclub – it was recommended reading for primary schoolers aged about 10 and up and yet the principal of my school took it upon herself to want to ban it. I must have read that book a hundred times while still in primary school. Yes the book had some bad things in it but it was also a wonderful, beautiful story and that’s what I remember. That book has stuck with me all these years, even though it must be some 20 years since I first read it. And I think Speak is like that. You can’t ban books because they contain things that you don’t like. In that case you might as well turn off the news, turn off the radio, turn off everything. Because the ‘bad bits’ in these novels come from real life.

10/10 – for the story and for the message.

Book #76 of my 100 Book Challenge

Looking for some other opinions?

Giraffe Days has reviewed Speak

LiteraryObsession has also reviewed Speak

And there are many, many more reviews out there that can be easily found if you are looking for more information.

7 responses to “Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. Kelly says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog 🙂

    Oh my goodness I was furious when I first heard about that guy. I swear he didn’t even read the book. It’s a really good book and has just an important message.

  2. […] darling friend Bree over at 1girl2manybooks has reviewed Speak, as […]

  3. I have this on my to be read list — the book just shipped to me from Paperbackswap, so I’m amped and ready to read it. And I doubt this guy read the book – he simply made a name for himself and got his 15 minutes!

  4. Shannon says:

    Wow. “soft core pornography”?! I shudder to think of this man’s idea of sex if he thinks this has soft-core porn! He needs to get laid.

    Seriously though, I highly doubt he read it either. But honestly, it’s incredibly ironic that someone would want to suppress a book that is all about speaking up! Does he not see the irony?!

  5. […] World, by Lionel Shriver, Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Speak, by Laurie Halse […]

  6. […] Speak, by Laurie Halse-Anderson. An amazingly written book about a teenager girl suffering through a trauma and ostracizing at school because of her actions after it. It deals with such relevant issues with bullying being such a huge problem right now, particularly because it’s so easy these days with all the cyber bullying that anyone can do without having to face people. It’s a book that stays with you. […]

  7. […] so I nabbed it from my local library and was blown away. Such an amazing book, I think I said in my review that this book should not only not be banned, but it should be mandatory reading for […]

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