Monday, October 8, 2012

Banned books week: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Speak is a realistic, gripping and believe it or not humorous young adult contemporary about a young girl working her way back to life after being raped. I chose to read this novel by author Laurie Halse Anderson because it was under attack by a Wesley Scroggins from Missouri State University, back in 2010, for being filth and

material that should be classified as soft pornography.

UK cover.
I'm taking a different approach for this review, in honor of banned books week, by addressing the issues that has been called out as problematic in Speak in an article by said Scroggins back in 2010. All quotes in this post are from that article, you can read the entire ordeal by clicking here.

Soft pornography, Mr. Scroggins?

I am terribly sorry to have to be the one to inform you about this, Mr. Scroggins, but you are criticizing the wrong book here. I think you might have confused this excellent read with some other novel you might have read. Had this article been published in 2012 I might have believed that the novel in question was Fifty Shades of Grey and that you just got the two novels mixed up in your article. There is no pornography what so ever in this novel. There is however a short, nothing very graphic, scene where Mel, the main character, looks back on the night she was raped. If someone confuses this with pornography it says a lot more about them, than teachers putting this novel on their curriculum trying to set focus on such an important matter.

Is this what high school is supposed to feel like?

As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page.

So here is the real deal. Mel is outside taking a bit of fresh air, regretting that she ever tasted beer, when this handsome older guy shows up and takes her into his arms. He gives her a great kiss and for a few seconds Mel is in 7th heaven. Mel lets her mind wonder and thinks about how great it would be to start high school with an older boyfriend to looking out for her. A perfectly normal thought for a girl on her age! Unfortunately this handsome boy turns out to be a beast, someone who wants a hell of a lot more than just a kiss. The beast does not care how Mel struggles to get away from him.

Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers

News flash!

It is not unusual for teenager to be in conflict with adults and thinking that they are stupid and so on. In my world that was perfectly normal at least. Not that we thought everyone were looser but some, that is also the case for Mel. Mel's character feels genuine and if she is a bit more negative than you're average teenager that might be because of what she has been trough. Want a word of advice? Look up the word empathy in the dictionary.

Speak is a story that will speak to your heart, soul and mind.

For the reader Speak carries several important messages. Here are the ones I took special notice of:
A) IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, NEVER! No matter if you couldn't find the word no, the other part should still know the difference between a girl(or boy) that is terrified and a willing participant. If the offender didn't stop then it is still not your fault.

B) If someone you know starts to change personality all of a sudden or does things that is out of character for him or her pay attention. Do not turn your back on the person, he/she might need you a whole lot more than you might think. Let them know you are there as a confidant and a friend, parent, teacher, coach or what ever your role in that persons life is.

C) If you have suffered rape or abuse of any kind find a person whom you know and trust and try telling them.

The importance of daring to shine the spotlight on real problems

I want to salute every author out there daring to write about things that can happen in the real world. Sadly bad thing happen and even though writing about it doesn't fix the problem it it goes a long way to make people understand more and be more aware of these things.

Speak is an important read for young boys and girls alike. You get to travel inside the head of a young girl who suffered rape. You get to see how she struggles with high school, friends and trying to cope with what happened to her. The reader is never sure of what the outcome in Speak will be, it is not difficult to understand that life isn't easy when you're trying to survive and have a hard time thinking of a future that is more than five minutes away.

A dysfunctional family Mr. Scroggin wrote.

Mel's family is slowly falling apart and apparently has been falling apart for years. They have no common ground anymore and all three(mother, father and daughter) are leading their separate lives. No, this isn't idyllic family life, but sadly loads of kids live in families like the Halse Anderson portraits here. Is it right to try to convince young adults that everyone is leading a perfectly happy life at home? So the ones that comes from families outside this norm should feel even more alone? NO! What is important is the hope seeps of the pages in this story, things can get  better if we try.
So there you have my voice, a mere reader, against a professors voice. I know, I know, the BBW ended yesterday but time just got ahead of me is all.


Did you know that Speak also is a movie with Kirsten Steward(that was before her time playing Bella!) playing the main character, Mel? I did not know that. Now I would love to see the movie, I'm sure it cannot have been an easy adaptation. Transferring both the humor and the hurt onto the screen must be hard to get right.

Where did my copy of Speak come from?
I bought Speak during BBW in 2010 to show my support and to give a vote against censorship. However I did not read the novel until now(can you believe it?).


  1. Excellent post! I loved this book, and I was incredibly surprised by all the controversy, especially since the treatment of the rape was very understated.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Stephanie :) It is just sad, sad that some people see this book as offensive(and rape as a subject that should be banned from books for young adults).

  2. Interesting read =)

    I have not read Speak but i might.

    1. It was a good read. I loved it for being both fun and serious at the same time. That is quite a difficult balance to get right.

  3. Thank you for posting this! :) I can never understand how people can just say those dumb things--I liked the way you proved them wrong. The movie is actually pretty amazing, they got most of it spot on. Definitely a must see.

    1. Thanks for recommending me the movie, Jessica. I will watch it, guaranteed :) And thank you so much for your lovely comment.

  4. I really must read this one but the library only have it it Swedish and I must have English

  5. I can recommend the movie, it's quite well done. :)

    Have you heard the poem Halse Anderson wrote based on the letters she received after Speak? Very powerful, just like the book:


Thank you for sharing your thoughts =)