Banned Book Review: Speak

 **To those who have experienced trauma, this piece may contain triggers**

Today is the second day in our week long series about Banned Books. We chose to highlight a book that represents something that unfortunately most women have experienced.

The novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a book based on the sexual assault of a high school girl. Seeking refuge, friends, and some kind of stability, the main character Melinda, tries her best to navigate a new world.

Caution, Spoilers Below.

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape is an extremely damaging, and lasting trauma. More unfortunately, this kind of trauma is more common than we realize.

The novel opens up on a young girl in high school. We all know what high school was like, it was awkward enough on its own. Add some of the trauma mentioned above into the mixture, high school has escalated.

Melinda enters high school as a friendless outsider. No one likes a snitch, and to everyone that’s what she is. She’s not a snitch about the guy who raped her, but she’s the girl who called the cops at the end of summer party, clearly a level one offense.

In the novel, Melinda attempts to find any solace she can. Eventually, she takes up refuge in the art classroom. As Melinda is trying to find her voice, she falls deeper and deeper into an abyss of depression. The lurking presence of her abuser still roams the halls.

Towards the end of the novel, we finally see Melinda triumph. Even better, there are more than one triumphs. Melinda finds a newfound love and talent for art. Using her trauma and pain as a medium, she creates moving pieces. And finally, we see Melinda speak out against the boy who raped her.

As a Banned Book, Speak is taken from the hands of students. Possibly, this book is taken from the student who may need it most. They miss out on the opportunity to see Melinda’s triumphs underneath such a heavy burden. The students also miss out on a key learning experience. Yes, the trauma was traumatic. You may even believe that students should not be exposed to this book. But more importantly, what if this helps someone understand that this was wrong? What if Speak can prevent an assault?

By removing it, we are missing out on both of these potential influences on students.

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