Study Guide: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - BookNotes|
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SPEAK BY LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON: PLOT SUMMARY / CHAPTER NOTES
1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have enough time to get to your class before] the bell rings.]
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with your needs in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly. After the assembly for the freshmen, Melinda is late to class, because she can’t find the biology room. She receives her first demerit and thinks there are only 699 days and seven class periods until graduation
The reader is quickly introduced to the narrator of the story who seems intelligent, creative, and deeply sad. There is no doubt that something happened in August before her freshman year in high school that left her friendless and outcast. She mentions having friends during her eighth grade year, but now they refuse to associate with her and even tell her that they hate her. She is a keen observer of all the bad parts about high school and reserves her sarcasm for those things that are the most ridiculous, like changing the name of the school mascot to avoid any sexual references by the students. She also has little use for teachers as evidenced by her description of Mr. Neck (not really his name, but one by which we will know him for the rest of the story). He is a “predator,“ so we can assume that he will be a thorn in her side before the story is complete.
Melinda does make a friend of sorts: Heather from Ohio, who has “at
least five grand worth of orthodontia, but has great shoes.” Melinda’s
list of the ten lies they tell you in high school is representative of
her self-proclaimed bad attitude, but also reflects the despair she feels
as she enters this new world. Something has gone seriously wrong in Melinda’s
life. She agonizes for high school to be over.
Melinda’s second commentary on a teacher concerns her English teacher
whom she christens Hairwoman, because her hair is black from her part
to her ears and then neon orange to the frizzy ends. Melinda explains
that Hairwoman takes twenty minutes to take attendance, because she won’t
look at the students. The rest of the period is spent with her standing
at the board, her back to the class, discussing the required reading and
their journals. Once again, she is scheduled for American History for
the ninth time in nine years. She sarcastically observes that they never
get past The Industrial Revolution and that they only made it to World
War I once. “Who knew there had been a war with the whole world?” Her
social studies teacher is Mr. Neck who remembers how he had to order her
to sit in the auditorium and now warns her, “I got my eyes on you.”
Melinda takes this opportunity to describe two of her teachers, Hairwoman
and Mr. Neck. She doesn’t call them by their actual names, perhaps to
reflect how little she respects them or perhaps because she is too wounded
to allow herself to feel any kind of admiration for anyone. It’s easier
to point out their shortcomings than to identify with them in any way.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Speak".
. 10 June 2008