Monday, April 8, 2013

Note to Self - Speak

A book review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – mild Spoilers and possible traumatic trigger warning

Note to Self:

Encourage everyone you care about read Speak. Everyone. Share it with your nieces and then talk about it, long and hard. Talk about it with your sisters and grow even closer to them because of it. Suggest it to clients so they can feel they are not alone. Cram it down the throats of as many boys and men as you possibly can. Every. Single. Person. Needs. This. Book. Share it, Rachel. Whatever you do, help this book be read, this message heard.

I have never been so emotionally touched by a book as I just was by reading Speak. I just finished it and immediately had to write about it. Forget homework, forget preparing for your group therapy session tomorrow, forget food, and forget sleep. Get these thoughts down before they leave you.

This book is about Melinda, a freshman in high school who was raped at a party. She didn’t know how to tell anyone so she withdrew deep into herself. Everyone at school thought she was a loser, a freak who never talked and chewed her lips. Her parents and teachers couldn’t understand why her grades were dropping and she was skipping class. No one knew what happened. No one cared.

As an experiential therapist, there is almost nothing I love more than experiencing emotion with other people and hearing the beautiful and haunting ways people describe their emotional experiences. The emotional descriptions in this book are breath-taking. Many times I had to stop reading and just feel the horrible emotions described, amazed that people are strong enough to feel that kind of pain and survive it. Yes, this is fiction, but based on the poem written by the author at the beginning of my copy, thousands of sexual abuse victims felt their experiences had been put to words.

This topic resonates with me so much. I have never been sexually abused, thank God. But I’ve had vivid, horrible dreams about it that made me afraid to sleep for weeks. I have always been very aware of the possibility of sexually abuse, even more so now, having been taught in school that 1 out of 4 women are sexually abused sometime in their life. WHAT?! That’s horrifying.

I’ve felt the fear of being alone outside at night. I’ve had the awkward talk with missionaries, Elders who just couldn’t understand why I was unwilling to go tracting at night in a town with no street lights. I sat there with tears streaming down my face explaining to them the fear I have of that most personal and intimate part of myself being stolen from me. I was so angry at them for not understanding, for not caring, for taking my safety for granted, for assuming that because they feel safe in that situation, I should too.  For thinking I was lazy or disobedient for going in early. Thankfully, they left me alone afterward (probably because they felt too awkward about my tears), but I forever after felt that they saw me as weak. And that is wrong. This is a societal cancer that feeds on the idea that women are weak and can be used in whatever way a man desires. We are not weak. You cannot use us. People, male or female, are not there for the taking. Nothing, hear this loud and clear, NOTHING excuses rape. We are people. And people never, ever deserved to be treated like that.

We need greater awareness. Of rape and how it affects people. We need to be more aware of the effects of abuse of all kinds. We need to be more sensitive to the emotional reactions people have to trauma. We need to be more understanding of the various ways depression and PTSD can manifest. When we notice something is off about someone, we need to show enough interest in and care for that person that they will feel safe enough to share their story with us. We need to teach people that bullying is NOT okay, ever. We need to PURGE the rape myths (she wanted it, it’s not that bad, she didn’t say no, she was drunk so she deserved it, she's a slut so she was asking for it) OUT of people’s heads and hearts. We need to educate on the horrors that come with living in our world, rather than hoping that if we avoid talking about them, they won’t happen. Because they do happen. And because that doesn’t work. Clearly.

We need to do something to heal our society. Do you know what that something is?


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- 5 stars
- Everyone needs to read this. Go buy it. NOW.

Tissue Count:
- 3 or 4 – may have different effects on people, based on their reaction to the subject matter

Details for more cautious readers:
- I’m not giving details. Anything that would normally be seen as sexually explicit is used to show how wrong rape is. If you’re uncomfortable with it, read it anyway. You need to. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.


  1. Okay, I love Speak! I'm glad you read it. It's so good! Thinking in lines of this book, have you ever read "13 Reasons Why" by Jay Asher? It's another one of those amazing books that needs to be read. Miss you girlie!

  2. I loved Speak. I read the book and then listened to the audio book. My daughter read it in middle school too. And I was glad because all girls so need to be aware of these issues. So sad that they have to worry about it. But better to be aware. Thanks for the great review.