By "it", I mean me, by the way. I am pausing grad. school for just second, to bring you this important message!
My university hosted a Take Back the Night event a few weeks ago, and it was very moving and empowering. If you're not familiar, Take Back the Night is a non-profit foundation that fights against domestic, dating, emotional, and sexual assault and abuse. At the event, some survivors of abuse shared their stories, others read or sang artful pieces. There was supposed to be a public march, too, but the weather was poor that evening. However, we still displayed our posters around the meeting area. I have to share my favorite:
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wanted to share a book review that is related. I had to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for my Young Adult Literature course and I think it has a good and authentic message for teenagers (and really people of all ages). The issues covered in this novel are important and REAL. Pass it along if you have a young adult in your life or pick it up yourself!
[This review was adapted from an assignment for my YA course...Also, spoilers are included below]
The summer before freshman year of high school is always memorable. It is the time when 13- and 14-year-olds work to find a rite of passage, to in some way kiss their innocence goodbye. However, for some—teenagers like Melinda Sordino—the loss occurs harder and faster than ever desired.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak is about a teenage girl, Melinda, who is sexually assaulted by an older peer at an end of the summer party. Instinctually, Melinda calls the police after the incident, but does not actually confess the actual offense. Not only does her phone call cause many of her schoolmates to get in to serious trouble, but also leaves Melinda to begin high school without a single friend—aside from a somewhat ridiculous pseudo-friend, Heather—nor a soul who knows the truth about what really happened at the party and her reason for calling the police.
Alone and depressed, Melinda still manages to navigate the common teenage antics found in a suburban high school setting. Though her internal commentary is witty and cynical, offering up some humor to the reader, it also highlights the cruelty real-world teens experience at the wrath of peers and ignorant adults.
As her grades drop and she begins to cut class more and more, the reader experiences the acuteness of having to co-exist at school and in town with Melinda’s offender, Andy Evans. She watches as he moves on to new victims—her ex-best friends. For almost an entire year, Melinda literally doesn’t speak; it’s as if Andy Evans has taken her voice away with her soul. Page after page, hopelessness builds and a true concern for Melinda’s soul ensues, until eventually Anderson offers a climatic moment for Melinda to finally “speak.”
Year after year, Speak is banned from high school reading lists. Why? Oh, the usual: because the subject matter involves sex. Let’s be clear here. The sex in this book is actually rape, and Anderson’s narrative illustrates what happens when young people—any aged people, really—are firstly, taken advantage of and then, rendered silent by their own society. The fact that this book is repeatedly proscribed only perpetuates the silence that is engendered by our societal ethos.
Although, I wouldn’t rate this a five-star novel based on literary merit, I can’t tout its emotional power enough. For well over a decade, Anderson’s novel has spurred many a wounded individual to speak for themselves. It has removed them from fear and motivated them towards righteous vengeance. For all those readers who were and are in the need of healing, either for they are victims or for they have been infected as offenders, this book is worthy of attention and praise.