Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Review

Speak
Laurie Halse Anderson
5 stars

Most topics are not difficult for me to talk about but there are some books that touch on personal experiences, and sometimes these are harder for me to analyze and to be objective. This is not the first book I've read that's dealt with rape yet my reaction to Speak is very different than how I felt when I read say Lovely Bones. I'm not completely sure why, but I suspect that like the narrator of Lovely, I processed it more out of body, much in the way the ghost or presence of the narrator did in that novel. Despite the violence and finality of Lovely Bones, the out of body consciousness created an emotional distance I did not have with Speak.This realistic YA novel is disturbing and sobering without gratuitous violence. Despite the humor which is good, the humor did not deflect the anxiety, didn't distract me from the protracted guilt and anguish that Mel experiences. There were times when I wanted to shake her or even worse, I wanted to slap her into her senses. I was pissed at her parents for failing to recognize the signs of depression and trauma, and then I felt guilty because I know how as a parent you can miss what others see. The bunny analogy made me want to throw up. After you've been raped there's no room for victimhood, warm fuzzies and childhood. Of course, this is my anger talking.

The novel is well-written. I think if you're not a rape survivor reading the work, you can empathize and learn from the read. If you are a survivor, I don't know how you process the read without experiencing muscle memory. When you've been violated, while you can heal and move on, I don't think you can create enough emotional distance not to be affected by the read. I don't think it's necessary or possible to debate how you're affected. I think what resonates too much for me is her shame, guilt and the circumstances: a young girl trying to be older than she is and her subsequent self-destructive behavior.

I couldn't wait for the book to be over. I felt relieved when Mel finally said she was raped. Took her longer still to actually talk about it. Any victim likely knew fifty pages in what happened, but it took over a hundred pages before Mel articulates the word rape. I didn't feel better when the book ended. I didn't feel stronger or empowered. Only glad that she got it out and I could move on to another read

2 comments:

Lenore said...

Thanks for the link. It's nice to see other perspectives.

susan said...

Hi Lenore,
For me the point of writing reviews and publishing them is to create a space for dialogue. If there's no exchange of ideas and sharing our perspectives the value of blogging is lost on me.