By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Speak

Book description

A fiercely authentic, critically acclaimed and award-winning modern classic.

'Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say.'

From my first day at Merryweather High, I know this is a lie.

Nobody will even talk to me, let alone listen - all because I called…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

7 authors picked Speak as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In this book Laurie Halse Anderson lets us inside the mind of Melinda, a high schooler who finds herself increasingly isolated from friends and family.

As a reader, it was easy to share her frustration with how others treat her, because it was clear that her inner world didn’t match up with what others perceived outside of her. She has experienced a traumatic event, a violation that she doesn’t know how to process or talk about.

This novel masterfully captures the way Melinda compartmentalizes what has happened to her and grasps for coping mechanisms. Some of my favorite scenes occur…

For any teen or adult who has been sexually assaulted or had any self-esteem issues, you should read this book.

Melinda, the protagonist, is dealing with the same issues that many teenagers deal with: self-esteem. She’s changing schools from middle school to high school and changing friends. But she’s also hiding a secret, before beginning high school, she was raped at a party one night.

She becomes a friendless outcast. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Speak tells the story of a survivor who is the voice for so many alienated teenagers while demonstrating…

High school tends to be a difficult time for a lot of people. There are growing pains, hormones, and heightened emotions, all while trying to establish who you are independently and in relation to other people. For some, this time is made even more difficult when the unimaginable happens. Speak explores healing in the aftermath of violence and rebuilding a part of oneself.

CW: Sexual assault

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Air Force brat World War 2 junkie Gallivanter Beret-wearing Francophile Book hoarder

Vicki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this book set against the backdrop of a changing America, Sarah must find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and come to terms with her future. Sarah, a young woman from the rural town of Tolerance, Arkansas, has endured an impoverished and painful childhood.

But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
Set in Arkansas as the innocence of the 1950s morphs into the turbulent ‘60s, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman emerging from an impoverished and traumatic childhood as she finds the inner strength to overcome her past. Te ghosts of the past and come to terms with her future is in the strength to forgive those who have wronged her?
Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

I love Speak because the prose is so poetic and raw. It's such a realistic portrayal of what it's like to go from confused depression to the realization of what really happened. Assault is so confusing. There's a part of you that doesn't want to believe that's what really happened, so we rationalize what happened--but deep down we know, so it won't let us go. Plus the narrator is so unflinchingly cool. I just reread this last year and it still holds up really well. 

Even before #MeToo this book resonated with me. A girl seemingly stripped of her power by sexual assault has to fight to find the courage to speak truth to power, to be believed, and to regain her voice. I purchased and read this book after certain conservative groups labeled it pornography, an accusation both shockingly wrong but tragically telling. If there is a book equivalent to Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Ms. Anderson’s is it. Her storytelling methods are as powerful as they are memorable.

I am a survivor of sexual violence, and I have a soft spot in my heart for characters who have experienced such trauma. But more than the fact that Melinda, the main character, is date-raped, she is “othered” by her peers, and this refusal on the part of people to see their friends as fully developed complicated human beings is something that drives my own passion for writing stories that expose subtly layered hypocrisy. I have seen first-hand the impact of this book on readers; have had students make outcries to me when we are reading it, and watched boys’…

From Beth's list on YA about broken people.

First of all, it’s banned by many school districts and these books are, therefore, the most important and visceral narratives available. From the first two sentences, Speak takes you back to that dreaded and anticipated first day of high school. “It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.” You might think that Melinda Sordino is starting high school in a new area, where she is a stranger. You would be wrong. She knows everyone in her class and they know her. But she is an “outcast.” We don’t…

From Shelly's list on YA for adults.

Want books like Speak?

Our community of 11,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like Speak.

Browse books like Speak

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in teenagers, school, and rape?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about teenagers, school, and rape.

Teenagers Explore 125 books about teenagers
School Explore 267 books about school
Rape Explore 70 books about rape