September 21, 2012

Speak: Guest Review

I'm pleased to welcome Najela from Brave New Adventure back to the blog today for her guest review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Najela contributed a series of guest posts for Psychtember last year, on the Big 5 personality traits in YA characters (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism), and this is the first of several guest reviews she's doing this year!

Summary:  Melinda Sordino is an outcast because she called the police and broke up a wild party. She had her reasons for calling the police, but she must keep them a secret. As a result of the incident that occurred at the party, Melinda is silent and doesn’t speak. She is failing school, ditching class, her parents are fighting and inattentive, and her friends have deserted her. Melinda only has her art class to look forward to and her assignment is to spend the year with artistic works centered around the word given to her by her teacher. Melinda’s word is “tree”. When the past comes to haunt her, will Melinda be able to speak up for herself and protect her friends?

Likes: Even though Melinda doesn’t speak much, her inner thoughts are amazing to read. I  laughed at the way she perceives the world. I cried when she recounts the incident at the party. The author has made Melinda an intelligent and witty character who doesn’t wallow in her sorrow, even though it would be justifiable if she did. She doesn’t have any friends, people push her and bump into her at the halls. Melinda doesn’t dwell on these problems nor does she mope around the entire book. She takes action and she tries to heal as well. Taking action is how she heals. When she comes to the terms with the incident, we watch her journey from being a pushover for her new “friend” Heather to finally standing up for herself and saving countless others by speaking up.

Psychological Aspect: I believe the psychological aspect is done well. Selective mutism and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is what I believe that Melinda is struggling with and it written in a way that is empathetic without invoking pity. I think it’s important to realize that every character deals with situations in different ways and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and heal. Anderson allows Melinda to grieve and heal without telling her (or readers) what they are supposed to feel. .

Writing Tip:
When writing a character who can’t/won’t speak, it is important to make their inner voice engaging and interesting.

Another book to read:
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Najela is a graduate from UC Riverside with a dual degree in Psychology and Creative Writing and finally making the most of both degrees. She works with kids and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Exceptional Student Education. She is also working on several writing projects including a Beauty and the Beast retelling webcomic coming in late October 2012. You can follow her at her website or her tumblr.

Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts on Speak, Najela!

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