Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Club Discussions: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thursday, October 18, 2012
I recently joined a book club (finally! I've always wanted to be apart of one) and this month's book was none other than Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is a novel I absolutely adore. I figured, why not share with you some of what we discussed and maybe start our own discussion?

*Please be aware that there WILL be spoilers for Speak if you have yet to read it.*

What did you think of the book? Rating?
Everybody loved the book and all of the rates (on a scale of ten) were 9.5 or higher. We also praised a few of LHA's other works, such as Twisted (which I feel is very much a modern Catcher in the Rye), Fever 1793 (for all you history buffs out there), and Wintergirls (my friend said she needs to read it now, especially since she found out it's about a girl struggling with an eating disorder. She loves "issue" books).

How does it compare to high school nowadays? Is it similar?
My friend (Jess) felt that high school is much less cliquey. It isn't so High School Musical with the Jocks, the Nerds, the Thespians, etc, etc. While these groups do exist, they're more generalized, and it's perfectly acceptable, even expected, to mingle. 

I felt that as far as the bullying aspect goes, not much has changed. While bullying, in my school at least, isn't in your face (you know, "gimme your lunch money!" type of stuff), there's a lot of indirect bullying. People talk about their friends and classmates behind their backs and it can get malicious. Most of the time, people don't realize they're being bullies, especially when they use language such as "That is so gay!" It's no wonder that people don't want to speak up because you don't want to be a target. Doesn't every high schooler, every person of any age, want to feel included?

Another participant pointed out that being a bystander (by ignoring someone or pretending not to see a problem), like Heather, is just as bad as being the bully. This is one of the most common forms of bullying and the easiest to do. Speak definitely makes you analyze your actions towards other people.

Melinda gives herself her own grades at the end of each marking period. Do you do the same? Are you hard on yourself?
Jess and I both felt that we put pressure on ourselves. I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to grades and I never allow myself to give 100% to something... it has to be 110% or I feel like a failure. (Something I need to work on.) School is the main source of pressure for both of us, as it is for most students, I would think.

What age group is this book suited for?
Two of the participants were teachers who are thinking of having their eighth graders read this as part of a school book club. They were concerned that the topic of sexual assault may cause upset among parents. I read Speak for the first time when I was in eighth grade and Jess read it when she was even younger. Both of us felt that the book positively impacted our lives. However, we both said that we didn't full understand Speak's impact, but we would have if we had read it in a book club setting for the first time. 

It would be (sadly) ironic if Speak wasn't approved for their book club, as the whole book is about being able to speak openly about sexual assault. Our society- especially as of late, what with those "legitimate rape" comments- makes it seem as though it is the fault of the assaulted, not the assaulter. Open discussion is the only way we can counter these terrible ideas, and Speak is just the book to inspire said discussion.

As one of the teachers pointed out, middle school is that age where kids really start to think about sex. What they learn in health class is important, but the lessons they can learn from Speak are equally so.

Well, what say you? Is Speak an accurate reflection of high school? How old should you be before you read it?


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