Melinda is entering Merryweather High School with no friends, no voice, and seemingly no hope. During an end-of-the-summer party, she called the cops. Now, all her old friends won't talk to her and all the people she doesn't know hate her blindly. Since Melinda feels that her parents wouldn't understand, the safest place to be is inside her head. Melinda at first finds a sort of comfort isolated within herself, but it doesn't last. Lurking in the depths of her own mind is a demon. A memory, of the party, which she dare not remember. A thought which she dare not say. Slowly, it eats away at her, threatening to swallow her from within. Slowly suffocating, Melinda is faced with a choice. To speak, or to surrender to the spectre that haunts her thoughts.
What makes Speak such an original work of art is its dynamic mood. At the beginning of the novel, Melinda has clearly been through something major. She also has no friends. This combination has given Melinda a depressed, cynical, and sarcastic view on high school and life in general. What makes this a good thing is the fact that Melinda presents high school in a refreshingly candid, satirical way. My personal favorite example of this is her "The First Ten Lies They Tell You In High School" list. I choose not to give them all away but among them is, "No smoking is allowed on school grounds" and my personal favorite, "These will be the years you look back fondly." This book will make you laugh, unless of course you have no sense of humor at all, which would be a shame since the comedy in this book makes really good points on high school sociology.
Dynamic means characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. So clearly, the book is not just a long satirical attack on high school. There are others moods involved. The opposite mood stems from Melinda's own subconscious. There is conflict within her. She is trying, vainly, to suppress a thought, a memory, in her mind. Doing so arguably drives her insane. She experiences agonizingly acute anxiety, dangerously deep depression, and stifling self-silence. As the book progresses, the emotions Melinda feels become more potent. In the end, the book becomes very very intense so be warned. This book is not a fairy tale filled with rainbows after storms and kisses after poison-apple-based "death."
Bottom line (figuratively, not literally): Speak is powerful. Speak is intense. Speak is witty. Speak is dynamic. Speak is a good book. It is well-rounded and it relates well to teenagers. I advise reading it at least once just for the experience of it. Even if you're not a depressed person, it's good to see the world through Melinda's eyes because there are a lot of people who see the world a similar way.
I give Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson a (relatively) unheard of 5 out of 5 stars.