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8 Ya Authors on the Enduring Impact of Speak

15 January 2019

From Book Riot:

 This month marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Laurie Halse Anderson’s phenomenal, groundbreaking YA book Speak.

Speak was the first YA book I ever read while I myself was a young adult. The book hit shelves when I was 14, and I vividly remember heading deep into the corner of my local library and finding it on the shelf. I flipped through, immediately captivated by Melinda’s voice on the page. Her story hooked me and stayed with me throughout my teen years and my twenties, and I revisited the book again a few years ago. It not only still resonated, but I brought new things and gleaned fresh insights into the book, too. Melinda? She’s really quite funny. Despite the tragedy she’s experienced as the victim of a sexual assault, her humor further pulls at the reader’s heart and reminds them that even those who’ve suffered something unimaginable are still three-dimensional, complex individuals.

. . . .

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Speak, seven authors from all parts of the YA world have shared how the book has impacted them in both their personal lives and their writing lives (if those things are even extricable).

. . . .

JENNIFER MATHIEU, AUTHOR OF MOXIE

It’s been my true privilege to have experienced Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK as a reader, a writer of young adult novels, and a high school English teacher. Many years ago when I was an aspiring novelist, Laurie’s SPEAK reassured me that teenagers crave honesty, complexity, nuance, and rough edges in their stories—they don’t need morality tales nor will they read them. Melinda’s journey as a survivor of sexual assault, crafted by Laurie with such authenticity and voice, served as a touchstone for me as I attempted to create my own stories about realistic teens in the world. What an honor to get to sit on a panel with Laurie at the Brooklyn Book Festival years later and have the opportunity to let her know how much her writing has meant to me. As a teacher, I have also seen how SPEAK has empowered and validated my own students; when I taught the novel last year to my tenth graders in Houston, I had three separate students share with me how Melinda’s story of survival and healing had helped them cope with their own assaults. Were it not for Laurie’s novel, I would not have been able to put one of those students in touch with our wonderful school social worker—until reading SPEAK she had not talked to anyone about what had happened to her. My love for Laurie, for Melinda, and for this new classic of young adult literature knows no bounds. May this much-needed story live on for 20, 40, 60 more years—and beyond.

. . . .

TANITA S. DAVIS, MARE’S WAR

1999: I’d just published my first (long out of print) book with a protagonist who, looking back, was Mary Sue perfect, and therefore, nothing bad happened to her. I thought YA lit was supposed to be like what I’d read growing up—cautionary tales and polite fictions which promised girls that if they behaved, All Would Be Well. When I read SPEAK it rattled my preconceptions…because it was True, a kind of true that cut to the bone. I was, frankly, a little scared that YA lit could BE like that—maybe was SUPPOSED to be like that. SPEAK challenges me as a writer to be that honest, to speak my truth, and to stand by it unflinchingly.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

YA

5 Comments to “8 Ya Authors on the Enduring Impact of Speak”

  1. Twenty years, and this is the first time I’ve heard of it.

    It’s not meant to be a negative comment. I’m just amazed at how vast our culture is, that an influential book has been around for that long, and not to have heard of it.

  2. Thanks, PG for posting this. Like the other replies, I hadn’t heard of this book and at this point I’m decades past the target YA audience.
    Reading the full post piqued my interest to check out the “look inside”, fully expecting to browse a few paragraphs and move on. But I was quickly hooked and sped through the sample and had to buy the book.
    Just finished reading it and can completely agree with the praise it’s received. It’s a wonderful book.
    I’m glad you posted this.

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