"Speak" is a novel written and published by Laurie Halse Anderson in 1999. It was also made into a movie of the same name in 2004. The story follows the experiences of social outcast, Melinda Sordino, during her freshman year at Merryweather high school in Syracuse, New York. Due to a horrific experience over the summer, Melinda internalizes her feelings and refuses to speak much over the course of the year until she learns the value of speaking up for herself.
Melinda Sordino may remain silent on the outside but she is a very observant,, though hurt individual on the inside. She quickly sees the division of cliques in high school and humorously describes the teachers based on their quirks. A former "A" student, her actions support her damaged personality, including biting her lip until it bleeds, cutting school and locking herself away in her room.
Andy Evans, a senior at Merryweather, had a hand in damaging Melinda. He is described as attractive and strong by those who adore him, though manipulative and controlling by those who know him better. Melinda frequently calls him "IT" or "Beast" as he takes joy in psychologically tormenting her.
Rachel used to be Melinda's best friend until the summer incident. She changes her name to Rachelle and wears heavy makeup to fit in with the more European students. Rachel/Rachelle ends up dating Andy and is asked to be his prom date, much to Melinda's concern.
Heather is the new girl in town who has yet to learn of Melinda's outcast status. She is extremely chipper but not without insecurities. Heather uses Melinda to gain the favor of another group of girls called the "Marthas," known for their love of crafting and volunteering.
David Petrakis is Melinda's lab partner in biology class. He is incredibly smart and not only talks to Melinda, but stands up for her when their social studies teacher surprises her with changing extra credit work from written to oral. He gains enough of Melinda's trust for her to talk to him.
Melinda's parents are concerned for their daughter's sudden muteness but don't seem to know how to deal with it. Her mother works long hours at a downtown retail store and her father's attempts at talking to her yield little communication.
Mr. Neck gives Melinda a demerit on her first day of school for being in the hall during lunch and later requires her to give an oral speech. His personal life and views get in the way of his teaching, such as when his son is not hired for a job. It is only when David Petrakis has his family lawyer challenge Mr. Neck that he is pressured by the school to see the error of his ways or pack his bags.
Mr Freedman is the art teacher who desperately wants his students, as well as the school board, to understand the importance of art. Through various art mediums he connects with Melinda, offering her an ear to listen and ways to express herself.