Sunday, February 12, 2012

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Mandy Siegfried

photo: Audiobook of Speak, from  (Wikipedia's image was very faint.)

I volunteered to make a CD from the tapes of this title, so I figured I'd get some computer work done at the same time.  I do that from time to time for free.  I tell the people how long it took me to make the CDs for them, and I give them the address of the local homeless/battered women shelter for them to make a donation to.  (By the way, I make CDs from tapes and records using my vintage-looking Crosley CD recorder.  For the last few years, I've had one of these things in every room.  Love 'em!  They can be expensive, but I used a succession of Bed, Bath and Beyond 20% coupons to get mine--saving about $70-$80 each time.  The other two I have don't have the tape ability, which is a little more costly.  To show you what mine looks like, go here.)  Anyway, I dimly remembered Amanda Siegfried from a couple of movies (she'd gone by Mandy, apparently, in 1999-2000), and from a couple of plays.  She's been acting for longer than you think.

Anyway, hers was a really good performance of a pretty good book.  Siegfried has a crisp, clean voice and she uses it well here, never over-acting or over-reaching when she switches characters.  She sounds a little older than the 9th grader she's reading for--and that becomes even more obvious since this is told in first-person present--but that doesn't detract from the performance.

The book itself is unusual for its first-person present POV, which works to make the action more immediate, though there isn't much that happens that needs such immediacy until the end.  For the most part, the main character is an astute observer and chronicler of her peers, parents and teachers, though the teachers often seem stereotypical, and the parents often seem unrealistic.  (The mother's response to her daughter's suicide attempt by cutting is a head-scratcher.)  You might also wonder how a 9th grader could take a bus everywhere and skip school so often without her parents knowing, but I've seen it happen.  Not often, though.  (Same goes for how a girl between 8th and 9th grades could go to a party, get drunk, get raped, and then go home at a moment when both parents are out, so that in the end she doesn't have to tell them a thing.  And why didn't her name come up in the investigation?  If it had, she would've told a cop what happened right away.  Okay, so now that I'm thinking and writing this, that doesn't make any sense at all--and, yet, it's believable.  I don't doubt that it's happened often, just like this.)  And apparently she has her own little reading nook in the school building, a la The NeverEnding Story.  There's a little bit of Holden Caulfield here, but he's the granddaddy of them all and you can't escape his voice--Salinger nailed it that well.  And the author at times tries a little too hard for 9th grade coquettish, such as how the narrator ponders the plurality of some words and phrases.  These moments almost caused Siegfried to trip, as well.  And calling the principal Principal Principal tends to startle you out of the suspension of disbelief, as well.  A few times would have been a nice touch, but the author fell in love with it and mentions it seemingly dozens of times.  That became a little grating. 

As far as the astute observations--well, there's nothing new here, yet what is here is done very well.  I can't relate to the kid universe she describes here (and I don't think I could've when I was that age, either.  I just didn't take part in the social milieu at that age, nor did I care about it; some would argue that I haven't changed much about that), but I don't doubt that it is for most 9th grade girls as it's described here, though of course this is maybe exaggerated a bit for effect.

But, in all, this was a good performance of a book that's probably a very good read for girls of that age.  I don't know that 9th grade boys would get as much out of it, but then they're not the intended audience.


  1. Speak is an amazing book for all young teens. It's about a girl named Melinda who went to a party in August before she started high school. Now everyone in school hates her for calling the cops at the party, but she had a really good reason. She lost all of her friends, she's failing almost all of her classes, and she's depressed all of the time. She gets harassed by people all the time. The first day of school she met this girl who moved there from Ohio.

    1. It was indeed an amazing performance of a very good book. Thanks for commenting, Brasil.