Laura Halse Anderson

A young girl is just starting her freshman year of high school. As with most junior highers, this presents many obstacles in adjusting to life as a high schooler with new friends, classes, teachers, etc. Melinda was a girl that had good grades, a lot of friends, talked with her parents, and enjoyed life. However, Melinda carries with her a dark secret from the summer that will affect the rest of the year. Her old friends hate her, her teachers don’t care, her parents are clueless, and Melinda has decided to withdraw within herself and keep her mouth shut. What is going on? Why can’t anyone understand that she had a reason for her action that caused everyone to hate her? It wasn’t her fault and no one will understand what really went wrong and caused Melinda to stop being herself. She doesn’t have any real friends. There is one girl who befriends Melinda for a short time, until she realizes that Melinda’s weirdness is hindering her from joining a beloved popular group. Melinda is once again completely alone and as she continues throughout the year she withdraws from everyone else more and more. She starts skipping her classes and not completing her homework because of the secret that she won’t speak about. The more silent she becomes, the more the battle rages within her head. Will she ever be rid of this horrible secret? Will she ever have a friend? As the year wears on, things get worse and worse, until one day things come to a head. Melinda must risk sharing her secret, or risk someone else experience the damaging affects that she has. Will she open up from her silence and become vulnerable? Will speaking up free her from this terrible prison that has been enslaving her from a normal life? What will be the affects of her openness?

Every student has a secret. Some students have very dark secrets that I as a teacher probably don’t want to know about. I think that students can relate to this book, especially in ninth grade when everything in their life seems to be changing. Students can discuss with each other the point of keeping a secret and if there are ever times it is appropriate to keep a secret. In the case of Melinda, the students will think about what they would have done. The will consider whether or not they believe Melinda did the right thing or if she should have acted differently from the beginning and why. I would have students think about any secrets that they have kept in their own lives and write about the affects it had on them and on other people. I would have them think about what might have happened if they had acted differently. How might it have changed the situation? How would the people around you have reacted? Would it have been a better decision for you, or would have been better to just re-do it as you did? Secrets can be very damaging on yourself and others around you. It is important for teenagers to really think about how their actions will affect them in the future and how it will affect the people around them. Sure, it might be a good decision for the time, but what will the long-term affects be? Will you lose a friend? Will you become a different person? Will your relationships change? Will you start to disregard what was once important to you? This book can be a very thought provoking book for high schoolers. It is good for them to think about the cause and effect of each circumstance and how that pertains to their own life. Speak is an interesting book that will hopefully get students to think about themselves and their own consequences in their lives. - AK