Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: 2003 Speak (imprint of Penguin Putnam) orig.published 1999
My Rating: 5 stars
Awards: too many to list, including the Printz Honor
What do I do when I am so busy that I can't find time to read? Get my hands on more books, of course (a.k.a. procrastination project #1). There is something satisfying about checking out a banned or challenged book from the library during Banned Books Week, and that satisfaction is increased when the book exceeds your expectations (and takes mere hours to read--how fun is that?)
I've never spoken up about banned or challenged books because I have conflicting opinions about it. While I am not a fan of censorship or the chipping away of our freedoms in general, I feel that it must be looked at differently when parental rights and required reading is involved. Simply put, a book being available to be read is different from a book being mandatory reading. I support freedom. Freedom to read a book if you want to read it, and freedom to have a say in your child's education.
Anyhow, the cover of this particular book and the brief synopsis I'd read had me expecting something depressing. As soon as you crack it open, however, it is apparent that the writing style is unique. Like people--like teens--it combines humor with the hurt, personality with the pain. The first line:
It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.Laurie Halse Anderson gets the main character's 9th grade voice just right. I read one paragraph to my 14 year old, and while the passage seemed humorous to me, his raised eyebrows and nodding head showed that he could identify.
I'm in the bathroom trying to put my right contact lens back in. She's smudging mascara under her eyes to look exhausted and wan. I think about running out so she can't pull the evil eye on me again, but Hairwoman, my English teacher, is patrolling the hall and I forgot to go to her class.There is so much to love in this short book. It is funny, insightful, and touching. The cliques and clans of high school, the teachers, and the family life are frustrating in their realistic portrayal. I love that this book doesn't dwell on IT. I love that it doesn't set out to be shocking. I love that the ending offers a glimpse of growth, healing, hope. I love that it is so easy to relate to that I could recommend it to almost anyone. It is about life, about having a voice, about listening, about being brave. My favorite quote was said by the art teacher:
You'd be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside--walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job. It's the saddest thing I know.Read it. Ignore the "Teen" or "Young Adult" label and just read it. It won't take long, and it's worth it.