Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush


I finally got around to reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which has been sitting in my borrowed book pile for years. A friend recommended it to me and wouldn’t take it back until I’d read it. I’ve also had many a student (mostly girls, mostly struggling) tell me I should read it because it’s just about the best book ever written.

And so, in order to clear some shelf space, the time finally came. It only took a few hours to read this award winning book for young adults (the marketing term for teens), and I found myself wondering why I’d put it off so long.

Melinda Sordino is a freshman at a Syracuse high school whose friends have all given her the shaft after she called the cops and busted up an end-of-summer party. Now she’s totally alone and carrying a devastating secret. She withdraws deeper into herself, afraid to speak the truth about what happened that night.

Speak is written in a breezy and darkly humorous style that draws the reader deep into Melinda’s anguished world. It wasn’t hard to figure out her secret, but then I’m pretty familiar with kids like Melinda. In that respect, Anderson has done a great job creating the world of high school life from an outsider’s point of view.

I loved the way she used the changing seasons, which reminded me of how school feels at different points of the year when you live in a place that actually has seasons. It isn’t until spring that anyone comes back to life and so it was with Melinda.

Many times, I’ve noticed kids wandering the halls at school, crushed by burdens they shouldn’t have to bear, unable to get out and slowly being eaten alive from the inside. You see it everyday in schools, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that survival sometimes has to take precendence over schoolwork. Books like Speak remind us that many kids carry deep, dark secrets.

Art and literature are powerful things; they can save lives. I’ve had kids tell me that this book saved them, and I can see why. It’s an engaging book that offers hope and gives strength.

Yesterday, I bought a copy for my classroom.

Update 5.4.05: Thanks to Mr. Powell for making this post an assignment for his English class, and thanks to his students for all their wonderful comments. I posted a general response here.


  1. Splendid review of a great book…thanks for reading it, friend!

  2. Never heard of it, but I’ll have to check it out and see if there’s any overlap to my darkly held secrets in high school.

  3. Val, Thanks for the book loan. Some of my kids are into it now that I have a copy in my classroom. Good find.

    Heather, I hope there is no overlap, but either way it’s a really good read.

  4. i have just recently read this book and i thought that it was a very good book, i think that it really shows how things can be in highschool.

  5. Hey I liked the review you left. I thought that the book is good as well. I haven’t finished the book yet but I am almost done. I like the way that they split the book into 4 marking periods like a regular school. I think that she goes through a lot of tough times. Escpecially what the kid did to her at the party.

  6. this book speak is a good book so far

  7. My class is reading this book now and it is great. It keeps you guessing and it hooks you in each page. I think Anderson is a great writer and its a great book for anyone.

  8. johnathon kealey

    May 4, 2007 at 7:51 am

    I agree with how this book is explained and how it is seen by the person who wrote this review and think its a great book..

  9. Hey, i loved this book. It kept me interested the whole time. The book hooks you in and i could barely put the book down. Anderson is a great author.

  10. My class is now just reading this book and i like it alot. I also think its a good book for anyone to read.

  11. This book is a great book i wouldn’t mine reading another book just like the book speak.

  12. I really liked this book. It was an easy read and I could relate to almost all of the story. This book should definately be required for all ninth graders because some freshman need to know that they are not alone in whatever they are going through. Things could always be worse. This book just shows that most people are very lucky when they go to school. I recommend that everybody read this book.

  13. I think Speak is a very good book, it keeps you reading it, and dosen’t get boring.

  14. I am reading this book in mi english class and I love it. I think it really betrays the life as a teen in highschool. Just like there is always a clique to try and join. I was also surprised at the secret about melinda and Andy Evans. This is a great book and I think that every 9th grader should read it!!

  15. Speak is a great book to read even though i’m half way done. The book tells what really goes down in high school when your parents or friends from an outside school isn’t there. I recommend speak because it’s a book that really gets you thinking” why did she do this or why didn’t she do that?”. It’s not one of those books thta teachers want you to read and it’s very boring, its’s a book thta has excitement to it.

  16. I really liked this book. It was very easy to relate to since it is happening at a high school. I would recommend that all freshmen students read this book because the book is based on a real life situation. It could happen to anyone.

  17. I like the review you left, its interesting because, im about to finish reading the book Speak(it was an assigment left for english class), and I really got into it, Laurie is a very good writer.

  18. Im not very far in the book in class,but so far the book is too good to put down. This book is really good and I recommend it to anyone who needs something to read.

  19. I finished this book very fast, ahead of everyone in my class, and I think it was a good read. Not the best book I’ve ever read but it was good and I recommmend it. The review was right on and it’s true that many I know do have some pretty crazy secrets. Speak is well written and is a good book for most people.

  20. i think that this was a really good book. it was very interesting becasue i think every teenager gose through somthing like this in there life. I may not be able to relate to exactly whats she is sayin but at times i can feel left out and sad like she seemed to with that i think this is a really good book and teens should take time out to read this book.

  21. Never speaking to anyone about that night or anything else for that matter Melinda becomes a social outcast who only finds comfort in art and skipping school. It is not until Melinda can look her in the eye that she is able to break out of her shell and finally start speaking again.and when her mom and dad got into an arguement at thanksgiving. she would go up in her room and read her magazines.

  22. Speak is about Melinda, a girl who is hiding something, something that happened the night of what she thought of the best party ever, but then IT happened and she called the cops who crashed the party. Now that big thing that happened is now haunting her with all the people who were at the party, and even in her own mind, she has no place safe. She wants to tell people but she feels she can’t, so what IS Melinda going to do? What would you do?

  23. I really like this book. My class is reading it now but I’m already finished. I’ve also seen the movie. It’s a good book to read especially when you can relate. Highschool can be tough when you’re not really in the greatest of positions, socially. Also, there are MANY people who go around holding onto a deep secret, letting it get to them until they just want to give up, but they just can’t speak about it because they feel as though nobody will understand. I would recommend this book to anyone. Even adults, just so they can know how it might feel for us teenagers to deal with our everyday teenage life. It’s not as easy as it seems and this book shows that.

  24. Tremayne A.K.A future snger

    May 4, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I think this is a great book and especially since im a teen and can relate to alot of this stuff. my whole english class is reading this and everyone loves it.this is a great book and i hope she keeps writing.

  25. This book amazes me in many ways. It shows how something can become dramatic when no one even knows the reason why an event has happened. I can also relate this book to my life because of how teenagers react to things. Being a teenager can be a hard thing to do deal with, but everyone has to.

  26. I liked the book. Its kind of depressing but this kind of stuff happens everyday in school. I think that everyone should be required to read this book because it will show kids that the stuff they do or say could impact others lives…

  27. I really liked this book review. This is an AWESOME book =]

  28. The book “speak” is a very good book for young teens coming into the high school world. I can not believe how she has absolutely no friends as soon as she is starting high school. I would recommend this book to everyone especially in high school.

  29. I am not a big book reader and for me it is very hard to find a book that i can sit down at times and just reading this book, it was interesting and a diffrent type of book. This book kept my attention and it wasn’t just paragragh after paragraph most the time in the book it would split up inmto diffrent sections about diffren things in her life. To sum things up i definatly liked this book and i would recomend anyone who likes books or even people trying to find a good book that they read this.

  30. The review that you wrote on the book Speak is very good. I think that the book is good also as it shows some of the things that truly happen in high school. The book has a lot of twists and turns which keep you reading and it gets better as you read on.

    GREAT BOOK!!!!

  32. Great Review. I also enjoy the dark humour in the book. It shows how high school really is. Its a really nice book!

  33. The book speak shows us how people sometimes are treated and how they feel about it. There are students in school that get treated like that but most wouldnt know how they felt. We can guess that they are sad and upset but SPEAK makes us become the character. Most people have secrets deep with in them. They can act happy but inside be sad and depressed. Speak is truely a great book.

  34. SPEAK..…This book is an wondeful book to read full of excitement.Its one of those books when you just want to go on and on until the books stops. I enjoy reading this book because it gives a piont of view from “non-popular” ones. Melinda encountered some tough battles and hid away from what she to do about them until an incident happened and she knew that the red flag went off!!..I would reccommend this book to anyone!

  35. SPEAK..…This book is an wonderful book to read full of excitement.Its one of those books when you just want to go on and on until the books stops. I enjoy reading this book because it gives a piont of view from “non-popular” ones. Melinda encountered some tough battles and hid away from what she to do about them until an incident happened and she knew that the red flag went off!!..I would reccommend this book to anyone!

  36. After reading this book, I found it very interesting. In the book, I liked that Melinda was brave and did what she thought was right.I also liked the movie speak even though it was a little diffrent. It made me see what things were diffrent in the movie and in the book.

  37. The book “Speak” is a very touching book. It’s about a high school girl named Melinda who tryed to fit in so she went to a party-where things went terribly wrong,causing her to contact the police.Now as Melinda enters a new school and new enviroment she feels like everyone has disapointment in her for what she did.I am not finished reading the book although i do plan to. Speak is an awesome book that every highschool student should read,It’s a book that students can relate to-helping them get their feelings out through reading.I would reccomend this book to any teenager,especially if they are struggling through their highschool years.I would say “Speak” is the #1 book of the years!!!

  38. Speak is a really good book. Of all the books I have read, this is one of the better books. What makes this book good is the realism. Everything in this book is possible for everyone. I recommend this book to anybody who knows how to read.

  39. I am not really interested in speak. I like mystery books, not books about school.

  40. I thought that Speak was a great book. The way that it explains how there may be something going on in a teen’s life that no-one else knows about was crucial to it’s sucess. It explains in vivid detail how a teen’s life isn’t as easy as it seems, and how adults, friends, and family should be more understanding, and willing to listen when you want to speak.

  41. The book speak is a somewhat awesome book. I think this because it shows they kind of things teenagers go through when they are a freshman in highskool. Some teenagers are like Melinda and they are outcast in really life, but im not. They dont have any friends like Melinda and they dont want to speak the truth about something that happened to them or speak up to make new friends like Melinda. In the book Melinda called the cops at the end of the summer party and now she is an outcast without any friends. I would not be able to survive highskool without any friends like Melinda. I wopuld probably die because I didnt have any friends. If Melinda didnt keep things bottled up inside her then she probably wouldnt be an outcast. When Heather stopped being friends with her she should have went and found hersel a new friend to replace Heather. In the book I wouldnt be able to live like Melinda. If I lived like her without no friends i would be depressed like her

  42. I really liked this book a lot. It really shows how people can be treated. I also believe that a lot of people can change after reading this book.

  43. Well.. i liked the review that you left currently in my enligsh class our teacher has us reading the same book… i like it alot…and i am actually glad that he assigned it because it has been actually alot for me to relate to. i think that the book is great and although i am not finished it i would still reccomend it i am looking forwad in finishing it.

  44. I think that Speak is a great book. When reading the reviews I felt that people could relate to Melinda S. in the book. Now I am in the 3rd Marking Period and things are getting interesting.
    Most of the things that Laurie Anderson was trying to say to her readers is that they should stand strong and stand up for what you believe in. Melinda did what she did because she was standing up for what she belived in.
    I want to thank Laurie H. Anderson for writing this book, Speak. I can most certainly relate and I will continue to relate to Laurie through her words in the book.

  45. My class is reading this book and i really like it. I have not finished but I have a good idea of what is going to happen. I will try to reply agian once I am finished the book.

  46. I”m really enjoying reading this book speak. My class is reading the book Speak now and I believe that it is a very interesting book to read. Especially when you can relate to the book and everything the author is talking about the character Melinda is going through in her in school and not only that her life. This book helps us teenagers and adults understand how some teenager feel and are going through in everyday life in high school.

  47. My english class had been reading the book “Speak”. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but so far, this book is really good. =]

  48. I am one of those students who you mentioned; that the book Speak changed their life. I think your review was great, and I liked the changing seasons to. Like the hibernating bear, Melinda hid away in the winter, and then was back on her feet by spring. It proves that high school is a though road, but you can always hang on and see the good that comes from it.

  49. Speak is a really good book. It started off kind of slow and I didn’t think I would like it. This is a book that i would highly recommend too anyone, not just students starting highschool or have been in these types of situations. Speak is a great book and the author did a very good job.

  50. “speak” was an awesome book. This really relates to teenage life. Most books you read tell you how it was 20-30 years ago which is totally different. I was going through a rough time and when I read this book it taught me that the best way to forget to to speak about. I am still a bit sad but not as much. When i was an outcast in sixth grade for a while it was depressing. The people did not understand what i was going through. If they read this book they would have a good hint. This book not only talks about outcasts and teenage cruelity it talks about the highschool experience. The new people, the cliques, and the curiosity mixed in. Tenns experiment with alot of what you said but it all evens out eventually.

  51. My class is reading Speak right now and i’m not finished reading it yet but so far its very intersting. Especially when you get to the parts that you can relate to. I would definalty recommend this book to anyone especially if they are in high school.

  52. the book wasa very good so far but im not done yet. im on page 137. i never wanted to read the book because of the title but everybody said it was very good so i took i try reading it and it got me hooked on it. when u said how u like how it goes by seasons, well i like it to, i also like how it goes by marking periods and tells you she gets and how it tells you what grade she gets on her cloth and ect. your class mates will really like that book. the only thing that freaked me out and prolly your class mates, it will be when the heading is,(it will be a night to remember) the wonderful thing about this book is that you can relate to it in school and what goes on in the book and what happens in are school. i hope your class likes the book.

  53. I like this book alot. I’m not finished it yet but so far it has kept my interest. I think that when people can realte to a book it makes them want to read more and see what going to happen next. This book also has things that you can compare to in real highschool. For example, the different groups of people and how there is always some people that just dont get along with the other groups. I would recommend this book to anyone because I have really enjoyed reading it so far!

  54. Im almost done reading Speak, & i really liked it. i would recommend this book to anyone.

  55. The book is a page turner i get into one chapter and i just cant stop reading. Also i think it is great how melinda is played she’s kind of like the social misfit. This book is also great because just about every one in high school can relate to it. Everyone is trying to find their place to fit in and sometimes it doesnt always work.

  56. What can i say about speak that is not odvious when you read it, nothing, so i will point out the odvious. It was an excelent book. It captured the thoughts and feelings of a teen perfectly. It seems as though this bbook is about 98% acurate. It comes closer to the teenage mind than anything else. It is an all around good book. I highly recomend it. the only person who could have possibly written it better is chuck norris.

  57. I really like this book mostly because I can relate to it. Going through Middle school and my freshman year I was picked on alot and did not have very many friends. Every body hated me for no reason So I learned to hate everyone and hide like Melinda did. Altough I’ve never had to expirience any as horrible Melinda did. I’d never have gotten an invitation to the party in the first place.

  58. speak is a very good book!im sure it would help many teens get throug a rough time or situation. it also helps to realize when people talk stuff on you and you know you arent somethung or didnt do something that you still have to be storng and you always have someone to listen to your problems…you just have to speak!

  59. This is a great book it kept me wondering what will happen next.

  60. I’m only halfway through the book and it doesn’t seem to hold my attention this may be beacause I enjoy action stories where things explode and people travel through space attacking aliens. I just couldn’t see myself picking up the book and reading it because i found it enteresting. all in all I am only reading this book because it’s an assignment for school.

  61. My english class is in the middle of reading this novel. Im the type of person who hates reading books and never enjoy’s them, but this book im actually enjoying! It almost seems realistic; with the teenagers fighting, being in certain groups, and some even haveing no friends. All i have to say is that, Speak is now one of my altimate favorite books!

  62. I thought of the book “Speak” as a must read for all high school students.The character Melinda feeling like an outcast and wanting to be alone is something all teenagers could relate to.I would recommend this book to all teenagers cause it shows that the problems we face other teenagers face them too.Speak has become one of my favortie books and will always be.

  63. I thought that speak was a good book. It helps people realize that when people say stuff about you or something that is not even true that you shouldnt listen to it because the people that are saying the stuff only want a reaction out of you and you cant give that to them. You just have to be strong and forget that fact that people are saying stuff and just ignore it.

  64. I thought that speak was a good book. It tells people not to listen to people that talk stuff on you. And that you shouldnt let it get to you because it is only going to get you upset and fusturated, and it is just going to make things worse. So it is better to just ignore what people say about you, no matter how hard it is.


  66. I enjoyed it, the humor made it interesting

  67. I think Speak was a very good book. It tells people they should tell problems to their friends before they lose them. If you tell your friends the truth they will understand you and won`t treat you badly.

  68. This was a great book! It was such a page-turner.. i never wanted to put it down.

    i would recomend this book to anyone.. especially those who were the ones in high school who were popular, made fun of people, had perfect skin, and great clothes… it will make you look back on the people you made fun of.. and really think that the person everyone hates in school is probably the one that went through something like this.

  69. The book Speak is ok but it gets kinda boring. I have never seen anyone as wierd and crazy as Melinda.

  70. I like your review, but I know what you mean by taking awhile to get around to reading it. It took some time to get focused on reading but now you can’t pull me away. I also really like the dark humor and I can really connect with the character because of that.

  71. I am almost finished reading Speak and so far I think it is a really good book. The way Melinda feels is the way a lot of teenagers feel sometimes. I recommend this book to all teenagers. It is a really good book and I think teenagers will like it. It is easy to relate to as you are going through high school.

  72. My class is currently reading the book Speak. Its a book that keeps you interested the whole time. When I’m in class I don’t do any other work in class. I just pick up the book and try to finish as much as I can in 45 minutes. It’s a really good book for someone entering the 9th grade. It makes you feel that your not the only one who has something they want to say but they can’t. I think that parents should also read this book. So they can understand what teens have to deal with.

  73. i think the book speak is a good book so far. im behind in it but i feel it would be a good book to read when ur in highschool.

  74. Excellent review. I think that the book “Speak” is amazing. It deffinitly shows the teenagers point of view about how rough highschool can be sometimes and how we just have to get through it. I am currently reading this book in my english class and i think it is wonderful. I know a lot of other schools that are reading it too. It is a good book. Once again, excellent review.

  75. I think the book is really good so far. It relates to an actual teens life. Because it split it into four marking periods, it was easier to read and comprehend.

  76. Hey this is a great review of a good book, I would recommend that anyone read this because it is such an engaging book as you said. Thanks for writing the review you might have opened some eyes to read this book.

  77. I am currently reading this book and it has been very good so far. I think all freshman should read this book in english class.

  78. yea i have an interest in the book because i no how it feels because im a freshmen and all but i never had a problem with being left out and as much problems as melinda does.

  79. This book is alright but I don’t see why she wont speak and then complain about how unhappy she is. If you aren’t going to speak then you should expect a sad, boring life.

  80. This book was ok, but some of the stuff was boring , was good for something diffrent

  81. My 9th grade english class is now reading “Speak” and so far im now in the middle of the book and its a very good book. Not only girls i would reccomend this book for everyone to read no matter what sex or age you are. This book reveiw is good because its mostley goes overwhat the story is about. Luvz ya ~Tay


  83. “Speak” is a very good book. I realli enjoyed reading it. The book keeps you wondering and gets very interesting towads the end.!

  84. I really loved this book. After we started reading it I couldn’t put it down and finished it within the first two weeks. This book can help people understand what its like to be an outcaste and how the way you treat people will affect you also.

  85. Hey,this book was kind of boring when you start reading then it started getting better.Like when we listen to the audio in class yesterday now i want to continued to read the book..i actually like dis book

  86. Speak is a great book. My english has been assigned to read it.It is a great book and I find myself getting really into it. I think that it gives a great view point of a high schooler who feels like an “outcast”. I recommend every freshman should be required at one point in the year.

  87. Speak to me is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I stopped reading as much as I used to but speak is such a good book that I couldn’t put it down. I like the type of person that Melinda is, shes real, funny, and has been through a lot. I feel bad for her and hope that eventually she finds her voice and speaks up for herself. I would also definetly recommend this book for high schoolers.

  88. Speak to me is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I stopped reading as much as I used to but speak is such a good book that I couldn’t put it down. I like the type of person that Melinda is, shes real, funny, and has been through a lot. I feel bad for her and hope that eventually she finds her voice and speaks up for herself. I would also definetly recommend this book for high schoolers.

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