Thursday, October 01, 2015

Kearsten's Book Club Wrap-up: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Monday night we met for a very timely discussion of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.  As it's Banned Books Week, and Speak has been challenged for inclusion in schools, we got to talk a bit about censorship as well!

A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.

Our lively discussion ranged from characters to victim blaming to symbolism. Here are just a few of the questions/topics raised during our meeting (in varying degrees of decibel levels!):

  • Mr. Neck was the worst - Why do some teachers seem to hate the students they teach?
  • Why weren't Melinda's parents paying attention to her? That's their JOB!
  • Melinda seemed to blame herself, and didn't want to speak up for fear that others would also blame her for what had happened.
  • Was Hairwoman's physical transformation meant to illustrate Melinda's inner struggle/transformation?
  • Why would someone try to ban a book that features characters going through things that many teens face?!?
Our biggest concern was how many of the people surrounding Melinda - her parents, former friends, classmates, and teachers - were frustratingly oblivious to her spiraling depression. Because people suffering with depression like Melinda often can't or won't speak up, we might not realize that someone needs help.

If you or someone you know is depressed or expressing thoughts about suicide, get help! A great resource is the Crisis Text Line. Please don't hesitate to help someone in pain.

Already read Speak?  Why not try one of these book club-tested, book club-approved similar titles?

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Jeannette Walls tells the story about her childhood. She talks about living like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains... As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah's voice recounting the events leading up to her death.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele--Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles--as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary

Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Sixteen-year-old Valerie, whose boyfriend Nick committed a school shooting at the end of their junior year, struggles to cope with integrating herself back into high school life, unsure herself whether she was a hero or a villain.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten. They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather's shed, but June does not believe it was suicide because she and Delia used to be closer than anything, but one night a year ago, everything changed when they and June's boyfriend Ryan let their good time get out of hand, and now, a year later, June owes it to Delia to know if her best friend committed suicide or was murdered.

The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. A haunting coming of age novel told in a series of letters to an unknown correspondent reveals the life of Charlie, a freshman in high school who is a wallflower, shy and introspective, and very intelligent, it's a story of what it's like to grow up in high school, tracing a course through uncharted territory in the world of first dates, family dramas and new friends.

Next Up! 10/26 @ Kearsten's Book Club:

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