I read Speak for the first time when I was in high school. I was sixteen years old and the book became a focal point to my junior English essay. I don’t exactly remember what I wrote in the essay, but I know it was about heroes. There were other books and other characters that I pointed out, but I distinctly remember having to justify to my teacher exactly why I would consider Melinda Sordino, a rape survivor who does not come forward and tell anyone that she is raped (at least for a while), a hero.
My justification may not have been the most eloquent then, but I think I can do a better job now:
Melinda Sordino is a hero because she is me, she is you, she’s your little sister, or your cousin. She’s that boy you used to know who would always smile, but now only frowns. She is everyone and no one at all. She is the person you are when you are vulnerable and terrified. She’s hurt and victimized, but somehow, she rises above it. She is solidarity when you are alone. She’s a survivor and she’s one person you can relate to if the same thing happens to you.
I know Melinda. And if you read Speak, you will know Melinda and you will always have her as a friend. As someone you can count on when you are at your lowest. Melinda’s story allows others to see that they are not alone, that their feelings are not uncommon.
Melinda is a hero because her story helps. It isn’t pornography and it isn’t vulgar. It’s real. Rape happens. It shouldn’t, but it does. And Speak is something that allows the survivors to know that they are not alone. That they are not to blame. That they are strong and can get through the toughest situations in their lives.
I had planned on reviewing Speak here on my blog, but there’s no real point. I don’t feel the need to dissect writing style or characters because the above says it all. This book is heartbreakingly honest and tragically realistic. Read it, treasure it, share it. You never know if this book could save a life.