Narrative Style

Speak is written for young adults and high school students. Labeled a problem novel, it centers on a weak character who gains the strength to overcome her past, through narrative events and adult guidance.[1][2] The rape troubles Melinda as she struggles with wanting to repress the memory of the event, while simultaneously desiring to speak about it.[2] Barbara Tannert-Smith calls Speak a trauma narrative.[1] Janet Alsup specifies it as a "rape story".[8] The novel allows readers to identify with Melinda's suffering.[1] Lisa DeTora considers Speak a coming-of-age novel, telling Melinda's "quest to claim a voice and identity".[3] Booklist calls Speak an empowerment novel.[9] But, according to Chris McGee, Melinda is more than a victim.[2] Melinda gains power from being silent as much as speaking.[2] McGee considers Speak a confessional narrative; adults in Melinda's life constantly demand a "confession" from her.[2] Similarly, Don Latham sees Speak as a "coming-out" story.[4] He claims that Melinda uses both a literal and metaphorical closet to conceal and to cope with being raped.[4]

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