the classroom bookshelf, shelf one

In late July and early August, I lovingly go over each of the books in my classroom library and make mental notes as to which books need to be replaced, which have been read the most, and which (as happens each year) have walked off to become a part of someone else's library. So far this year, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak has faired worst of all. Six copies were read to pieces, four were gone, and one had somehow been lost behind the bookshelf and crushed over the year.

This book, Speak, is one of the most powerful in the classroom. Its voice is poignant, hilarious, and strikingly honest, and the writing is astonishing. The story follows Melinda in her first year of high school. She's carrying a deep, and terrible, secret that has rendered her effectively mute. She cannot speak of what happened to her, nor can she navigate the treacherous waters of high school. Because of Melinda's secret, I only recommend this book to my more mature readers (in middle school), but it would certainly be appropriate for high school readers.

At its heart, this story is one of power and redemption. Melinda survives her first year of high school and finds herself in the process. However, its greatest strength (and draw for my students) is the brutal honesty that resonates with teenagers and adults alike. Her high-school perfectly echoes the realities of cliques, pain, and laughter that make high school so memorable.

This is an amazing book.