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Reading Discussion Guides

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

About the Book

Ever since she called 911 from a teen party, Melinda has quieted her voice, literally and figuratively. She only finds it when its needed to prevent a reoccurrence of the same horror. This stunning look at sexual assault and peer pressure is presented in a highly readable form.

About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson was born in Potsdam, a cold place in northern New York State where as a little girl, she pounded away at her father’s old typewriter for hours, writing newspaper columns, stories, and letters. She never intended to be an author. At Georgetown University, she majored in foreign languages and linguistics. Laurie hit the real world with no idea of what kind of work she wanted to do. She tried everything, including cleaning banks, milking cows, and working as a stockbroker. Being a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer was a slight improvement, but she eventually quit to write books. Her first novel, Speak, was a National Book Award Finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, a New York Times Bestseller, and an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Laurie currently lives with her family in Mexico, New York. To find out more about Laurie, visit her website at

Reprinted with permission from Penguin Books.

Discussion Questions

  • Discuss the title of the novel and its significance. What roles do silence and truth play in the story?
  • Is there a relationship between speaking and listening? Can one exist without the other?
  • What is friendship? Describe the important elements of Melinda’s relationships with Heather, Ivy, Nicole, and Rachel. Is she ever really friends with any of them? Can friendship mean something different to different people? Cite different passages in the novel as evidence of your opinion.
  • Melinda says: “It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.” Do you agree with her? Why or why not? Do the events in the novel support or negate her statement? Does her outlook change at any point in the novel? How so?
  • What keeps Melinda silent? What is she afraid of?
  • Why does Melinda isolate herself from her friends? Is she justified in doing so?
  • Why do you think Melinda refers to Andy Evans as “it” in the beginning of the novel? At what point does she start to call him by name? Why?
  • In what places is Melinda able to find sanctuary at school? How do the characteristics of these places provide a window into her character?
  • How does David Petrakis contribute to Melinda’s quest to find her voice? How does Mr. Freeman influence her? What role do her parents and the other adults in the novel play in Melinda’s journey?
  • Is it possible to speak without spoken words? Why or why not? Identify passages in the novel to support your position.
  • What finally allows Melinda to speak?


Laurie Halse Anderson
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