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. The rape troubles Melinda as she struggles with wanting to repress the memory of the event, while simultaneously desiring to speak about it. Barbara Tannert-Smith calls Speak a trauma narrative. Janet Alsup specifies it as a "rape story". The novel allows readers to identify with Melinda's suffering. Lisa DeTora considers Speak a coming-of-age novel, telling Melinda's "quest to claim a voice and identity". Booklist calls Speak an empowerment novel. But, according to Chris McGee, Melinda is more than a victim. Melinda gains power from being silent as much as speaking. McGee considers Speak a confessional narrative; adults in Melinda's life constantly demand a "confession" from her. Similarly, Don Latham sees Speak as a "coming-out" story. He claims that Melinda uses both a literal and metaphorical closet to conceal and to cope with being raped.
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