Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a story about Melinda Sordino, a troubled young girl who has just started high school. Whereas in middle school, she had friends, had a life, in high school, she's shunned -- not only by the girls who used to be her friends, but by others. See, at a party over the summer, Melinda committed a social crime among her peers. She called the cops.

What no one knew was that she had good reason. Instead of confiding in her friends or family that she was raped that night, she retreated into herself. For a whole year, Melinda essentially stopped speaking and kept her secret. As a result, she was immersed in depression, a friendship she didn't want to be in, and harassed by her rapist (one of the popular guys in school).

Overall, this was a dark story that helped me explore the more negative emotional and psychological aspects of my main character.There were quite a few specific themes that drew me to this story, though. First was the breaking of the friendship of Melinda and her best friend, Rachel. When they start school, it's like Rachel doesn't even know Melinda.

The way that Rachel acts is a lot like how I would envision my Megan character acting should Anne try to break away. She's not just passively mean, but actively so, feeding rumors about Melinda and talking about her behind her back. Rachel is also socially powerful. If Rachel didn't speak to Melinda, neither did the rest of their circle of friends. I want to infuse the fear of this type of alienation into my story.

Melinda is also suffering from depression, which is also a theme that I am exploring in my story. She doesn't want to deal with any of her emotions; she just wants to hide. Anne has this tendency and that will come out more in the scenes on the farm.

But there is a part of Melinda that does long for some social acceptance, just like Anne. She starts a friendship with a new student who she doesn't particularly like. They do things she doesn't like -- not bad things, but the friend is always pushing Melinda to join groups and conform to some type of clique standard. Melinda struggles with this and eventually her friend decides to leave the relationship. So this was a good dynamic to explore in regard to further developing my characters.

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