At the start of the novel Speak, Melinda Sordino begins her freshman year in Merryweather High School in Syracuse, New York as an outcast, having lost all her middle school friends and being hated by the entire school. Breaking out of an end-of-summer party by calling the cops is a major violation in the high school society as Melinda learns. Considering the fact that her parents are fighting again, Melinda accepts that it’s going to be a dreadful year and that she must face it alone. During the first day of school, Melinda meets Heather, a new girl from Ohio, who soon becomes her only friend. Energetic and lively, Heather schemes up ideas for the two of them to gain popularity by being involved in the school’s clubs. Fearful of drawing unwanted attention to herself, Melinda takes up more reserved activities, such as redecorating an abandoned janitor’s closet to suit her need for a hideout and avoiding encounters with her old friends. Grateful for art class, her only comfort in school, Melinda struggles to create art based on her single topic for the entire year, a tree. Hallways of the high school are a dangerous place for Melinda since here roams Andy Evans, a senior whom she nicknamed IT and has had a rough history with. In these interactions Andy often teases and taunts Melinda about the still unknown past experience between them. Jumbled in psychological distress, Melinda becomes depressed and begins to slack off in her academics. Knowing that Melinda shares few interests with her and has a negative attitude towards life, Heather breaks off the thin cords of friendship between them, leaving Melinda completely alone. Love is thick in the air on Valentine’s Day, and Melinda is extremely pleased to find an envelope addressed to her on her locker but is disappointed when she sees that it’s only a goodbye note from Heather. Melinda even takes it as far as ditching school for entire days to separate herself from the hostile environment she faces there. Noticing her poor academic performance, Melinda’s parents schedule appointments for her to meet with her guidance counselor. Obstinately, Melinda refuses to speak to anyone about why she is acting in such a way, confining the dark secret to her mind. Prepared to face the dreadful truth at last, Melinda fakes being sick and is allowed to stay home for a day. Queasy over confronting the memory, Melinda permits her mind to travel back to that summer night when she was at the party. Remembering the exclusive party, Melinda finally admits to herself and to the reader that she was raped by Andy Evans, the senior, while she was intoxicated. Surprisingly, accepting the truth causes Melinda to recover from the tragic event and soon a little life returns to her. The fact that Andy Evans is now dating Rachel Bruin, Melinda’s former best friend, pushes Melinda to share the truth with Rachel so that Rachel wouldn’t have to face the same fate. Unsurprisingly, Rachel does not believe Melinda when Melinda reveals the truth about why she called the cops at the party. Variations in Melinda’s personality are seen when she partakes in household activities, such as yard work, and continues to work on her art project with renewed confidence. With the two of them often meeting in art class, Melinda also reconnects with her old friend, Ivy. Xenophobic Melinda becomes more social and positive, but she is cornered by Andy in the janitor’s closet, where he once again tries to sexually assault her on the last day of school. Yet, this time Melinda finds her voice and strength to resist Andy until help comes, gaining support from other girls who also had been tormented by him. Zany Mr. Freeman, Melinda’s art teacher, loves the final depiction of a tree Melinda presents to him after struggling to do so throughout the year, and she ends her freshman year by sharing what she had to endure with Mr. Freeman.
June 12, 2013