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What are some themes in "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson?

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Quick Answer

Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" is about the importance of finding one's voice. The protagonist Melinda is entering high school but finds herself ostracized from her former friends and the student body. She struggles to fit in and find the courage to tell the truth about what happened to her the previous summer; only when she manages to express herself is she accepted and able to find peace.

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Full Answer

The novel opens with Melinda being ostracized by her peers, who are furious with her for calling the police during a party. Unknown to them, Melinda was raped at that party and was seeking help but was unable to talk about the attack. During the school year, she slowly befriends her lab partner and avoids her rapist, a popular teenage boy. She takes refuge in her art, attracting the attention and worry of her art teacher in the process. When the truth is revealed, the student body's opinion of her changes, and she is treated as a hero.

"Speak" is a coming-of-age novel and a trauma narrative, but it differs from standard stories because Melinda derives her strength not only from her words but also from her protective silence. She only breaks it when she learns that she is not alone.

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