This is a supposedly controversial book. Some American wants to ban it on the grounds that it’s soft porn. I had never heard of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson before the furore a couple of weeks ago. It was suddenly all over the internet and facebook spoke of little else. Lots of people seemed to know it already, and those who didn’t, quickly read it.

So I’m in the last category, and I have to say that there is no soft porn in this book at all. It features a rape, and it does so in the discreetest possible way. But it’s the rape that is behind everything 13-year-old Melinda does – or most importantly doesn’t – do in her first year in high school.

We only learn that something very bad has happened to her. She can’t speak of it, even to herself, let alone to her dysfunctional parents. Her old friends shun her, not knowing what happened to Melinda. So this young girl has a whole year at school with no real friends and no parental support. School staff complain about her behaviour and her lack of effort with school work. And her rapist goes to the same school.

What is shocking is the crime committed against Melinda and the lack of understanding from responsible adults. It makes this an incredibly strong and thought provoking book. It’s not soft porn. That this book exists is because rape exists, and it’s a most necessary story that needs telling.

Few books deserve to be banned, and anything less needing banning would be hard to find. Almost more worrying than the rape is the attitude of narrow-minded people the world over.

I’m not going to go into this in any great detail. Lucy Coats was one of those who spoke up, and her blog posts are far better than anything I could write. Read those and then read Speak if you haven’t already. It’s not a new book, and the only positive aspect of this banning idiocy is that it’s surfaced again and more people will read it.

6 responses to “Speak

  1. They use it as a text in one of the sociology classes up at the university here–I’ve read a bit of it in the bookshop. The voice is very compelling.

  2. That’s good to hear. I feel you can’t have enough of sensible writing on difficult topics.

  3. Ah, for a moment I thought you meant someone was proposing banning idiocy … sadly not.

  4. how fascinating. It is on my daughters’ year 10 reading list from school! Naturally I bought it (and everything else on the list they don’t already have) for them, but equally naturally, as it is on a school reading list, they haven’t read it. Just as well, perhaps 😉
    (These school reading lists are seriously weird, I always think.)

  5. Dear me – and those who buy it because they *think* it is soft porn, will be terribly disappointed, I think.

  6. Yes Dorte, I can think of many books that would be better for someone looking for excitement.
    Tim, we should definitely ban idiocy.
    Maxine, may I suggest you read it yourself? See if your daughter will have a go if you say nothing. Or whisper something about it not being very suitable and she’ll be desperate to read it.

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