Melinda is the protagonist of Speak. She begins ninth grade friendless and depressed. After Melinda calls the police at a party in August, her former friend group ditches her and disintegrates. The remainder of the student body dislikes her for being a snitch. No one, however, knows Melinda’s biggest secret, the reason she dialed 911 over the summer--a senior named Andy Evans raped her while she was drunk at the party. Horrified and upset in the aftermath, the first thing Melinda thought to do was to call for help. She spends the school year reliving the party, facing the reality of what happened, and growing into a new, healthier person. By the end of ninth grade, Melinda finds her voice and learns to speak.
Also known as IT or Andy Beast to Melinda, Andy is the primary antagonist in Speak. He is a sleazy, but attractive, senior boy with a reputation for inappropriate behavior with girls. He rapes Melinda at a party the summer before her first year of high school. Throughout the year, he continues to torment Melinda with comments referencing their previous encounter. Near the end of the school year, he begins dating Rachel. Rachel publicly leaves him at prom after discovering that he raped Melinda. At the end of the novel, he tries to rape Melinda a second time, but Melinda screams and he is caught.
David is Melinda’s lab partner in biology class. He is brilliant, confident, and assertive, qualities that Melinda wishes she had. He hires a lawyer and threatens to sue Mr. Neck for a xenophobic classroom debate. He is one of the few characters who sees past Melinda's reputation early in the novel. Melinda develops a small crush on David.
Heather is Melinda’s first friend in the ninth grade. Heather has just moved from Ohio and like Melinda, does not have any friends when she begins high school. Heather is self-absorbed and obsessed with integrating herself into the social scene. She joins a clan known as “the Marthas” but does not fit in well. She becomes the leaders’ minion, not their friend. She dumps Melinda as a friend because she believes Melinda is hurting her social reputation. However, it is clear by the end of the novel that Melinda, not Heather, will be able to grow and successfully pursue friendships sophomore year.
Mr. Freeman is Melinda’s eccentric art teacher. He assigns his students a yearlong project in which they must work with a single object for the entirety of the class. Mr. Freeman is a talented artist and teacher who is angered by the school board's stifling of his class. He is the only person in Melinda’s life to notice her depression and to encourage her to tell her story, something that Melinda eventually does do for him at the end of the novel.
Also known as Rachelle or Rachel/Rachelle, Rachel is Melinda’s former best friend. Rachel hates Melinda after Melinda calls the police at a summer party to which Rachel’s brother had brought them. Rachel begins spending time with the foreign exchange students and changes her looks, her attitude, and her name to Rachelle. In the spring, she starts dating Andy Evans, and Melinda tries to warn her of the danger of being with him. Rachel is the first person Melinda tells about the rape. Although Rachel seems at first to not believe Melinda, she publicly leaves Andy at prom because of it. She reaches out to Melinda at the end of the novel.
Melinda’s mother works as a manager at Effert’s, a downtown clothing store that keeps her constantly busy. She is stressed and continually says that she does not have time for Melinda’s poor behavior. Like Melinda’s father, she does not notice Melinda’s depression and thinks that Melinda's silence and low grades are part of a childish game for attention.
Melinda’s father works as an insurance salesperson. Melinda is resentful that although his job is not as demanding as her mother's, her father is not helpful around the house. Like Melinda’s mother, he does not notice that Melinda is depressed, although he is very angry that she has let her grades drop and regularly skips class. He doesn't understand what has changed.
Mr. Neck is Melinda’s history teacher. He dislikes Melinda from the moment he discovers her lost in the hallway on the first day of school. After a classroom debate on whether the United States should have closed its borders in 1900, David Petrakis hires a lawyer and threatens to sue Mr. Neck and the school for civil rights violations. Mr. Neck is forced to behave for the rest of the year, but still gives Melinda a “D” for an extra credit assignment after she refuses to present it in front of the class.
Ivy is one of Melinda’s former friends. She is artistic and helps Melinda in art class. They are able to reconnect during their time spent in Mr. Freeman’s room and over their dislike for Andy Evans.
Nicole is one of Melinda’s former friends. She is a very talented athlete, and in Melinda’s gym class. At the end of the novel, Nicole and the girls from the lacrosse team hear Melinda’s screams from the janitor’s closet. They rescue her from Andy Evans and spread word of the attack.
Hairwoman is the name that Melinda gives to her crazy-haired English teacher. Hairwoman succeeds in engaging her students in the writing process by assigning fun essay topics. She is not as successful, however, in convincing them to look for symbolism in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Meg n’ Emily n’ Siobhan
Meg n’ Emily n’ Siobhan are the three leaders of the Martha clan. They strive for perfection, run community service projects, and wear matching outfits. They are judgmental and mean to both Heather and Melinda.
Greta-Ingrid is the name Melinda gives to Rachel’s new, exchange-student best friend who looks like a Swedish supermodel. She and Rachel become obsessed with Andy Evans at the same time. Despite Melinda's dislike of Greta-Ingrid, she feels obliged to warn both her and Rachel about the danger of Andy Evans.
Mr. Stetman is Melinda’s good-natured algebra teacher. He loves algebra deeply, and it breaks his heart that his students don't understand why it matters. He works to engage them by providing examples of real world algebra applications.
Ms. Keen is Melinda’s biology teacher. Melinda thinks she could have been a brilliant scientist, and doesn't understand why she is a teacher instead. She successfully gets Melinda interested in seed and plant growth.
Principal Principal is the average high school principal. Melinda continually pokes fun at his ineptness.
Speak Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Speak is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Melinda's struggle to illustrate the true nature of a tree provides her with the strength she needs to find her voice. In essence, her struggle with the tree parallels her struggle to speak, and over time, it all comes together.
Mr. Neck's real issues revolve around his desire for closed borders. In his own experience, his son is unable to get a job. Mr. Neck blames this on reverse discrimination and the ability of what he considers "real Americans" to get jobs.