Have you ever completely shut yourself up in your self-made mental cellar as the big dark world is too deaf to pay you its ears? Well, that is exactly what my newest friend, Melinda Sordino (no, we don’t know each other in real life but I will still like to befriend her) was feeling in her freshman year. Those of you who have not read Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, let me tell you I am talking about the protagonist of this book, the most realistic fictional character I have ever come across. The novel is written in the voice of Melinda, like a diary narrative.
Melinda was raped by the beastly Andy Evans at a party. Too drunk and young to understand the ghastly crime that she was a victim of, a baffled Melinda called the cops only to earn the displeasure of her friends. She was misunderstood and ostracised by her peer group and also by complete strangers. Pretty soon she became the social outcast whom everyone hated. Instead of coming up with her story, she stopped talking. With each passing day she succumbed more and more to her despondency. She skipped classes and her grades deteriorated. Her artworks reflected pain. Her only friend was Heather who would ditch her eventually for the more popular girls. Her lab partner, David Petrakis, was the only adorable and helpful person Melinda encountered. I ship that guy. Her school authority maintained a condescending attitude towards her. Her family members were not really affectionate towards each other, so they contributed little to help her. No one was thoughtful enough to ask her what exactly her problem was.
She tried hard to forget about that horrendous night but the memories kept resurfacing. She thought denying the truth would stop those traumatic experiences from tormenting her. Ah poor, unthinking, human heart! She was WRONG! The whole novel expounds how difficult it was for Melinda to get on with her everyday life till the day she decided to stand up for herself. A girl-next-door touch to her character makes her all the more relatable. It is really surprising (but true) how quickly our society banishes someone without judging what the person is going through. Such cruelty, much wow!
Melinda taught that it is okay to feel shitty sometimes and to seclude yourself from the entire world. It is okay to take your time before jumping to solutions that will help fixing your life. Depression is quite normal and most of us had to deal with it at least once. But what is not okay is to prolong that phase into a lifetime. It is not okay to allow fear engulf you. We need to face our fears and shout “I am done with you scumbag!” Getting raped is NOT the victim’s fault, after all! Give this book a try if you have not. Though it is not mind-blowing or anything but it is definitely worth reading. All I can say is this book is going to stay with you for a long, long time.