Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Club Discussion: SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Okay, the fonts might be goofed up, since I copied and pasted from the Word document I just created and, as you know, I'm kind of techtarded, but I'm leading a (grown-up) book club discussion on Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson this afternoon. Nothing like getting stuff together at the last minute, but I've had way too much coffee, so here's a list of what I'm pulling together for our discussion packet:

First off...

1. Did you enjoying reading Speak? If so, were you surprised that you enjoyed it, since it’s a novel for teens?

2. With its cliques and various social strata, did Melinda’s high school remind you of your high school? Do you think it’s similar to your kids’ high school?

3. Based on your own experiences or the experiences of people you knew in high school, did you find Melinda’s story believable?

4. Do you think her story could have happened at your kids’ high school today? If so, considering the pervasiveness of social media in today’s youth culture, do you think Melinda’s experiences would have been different, for better or worse?

5. Based on the author’s foreshadowing did you guess what had happened to Melinda at the party before it was finally revealed?

6.  What did you think of the way the various teachers treated Melinda (e.g., Mr. Neck vs. her art teacher)?

7. What did you think about Melinda’s parents? Should they have reacted differently to the various warning signs of clinical depression and post-traumatic stress she displayed throughout the story, or were they justified in being clueless, since Melinda was intentionally trying to keep them in the dark about her situation?

8. Many English teachers include Speak in their curriculum. How do you feel about this—glad, nervous, or completely against it?

9. Have you ever reread the classics you were assigned as a high school student? If so, were they better or worse than you remember them?

10. Do you think high school English classes should study more books starring and intended for teens, or should these books for teens be left for recreational reading? Alternatively, do you think a teen would be more excited to complete assigned reading if more books like Speak were on their list instead of, say, Great Expectations, The Scarlett Letter, and Anna Karenina

Second in the packet, this Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon. Love it or hate it, it's a definite discussion sparker. Even though it made the rounds in the YA writing community ad nauseam, believe it or not, most of the reading public across America is blissfully unaware of its presence.

Third in the packet, Sherman Alexie's WSJ blog response to Ms. C-G's above-mentioned ire-inducing article. Anyone who's seen Alexie speak knows she was poking a sleeping bear at her own risk by mentioning him in her piece. (Cue The Simpsons' Nelson's voice: HA-HA!)

Fourth and finally in the packet, I'm including a YA reading list including other selected titles by LHA (Twisted, Wintergirls, Prom), as well as the following:

Sold by Patricia McCormick
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Paper Towns by John Green
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I'm probably forgetting to mention a bunch of awesome books, but if they read these, they'll be onto a wealth of literary treasure in the YA marketplace. Anyway, hope this guide is helpful to the folks out there in cyberspace searching for Speak book club discussion questions, since all I could come up with were a bunch of lesson plans written by teachers for their teenage students, and Speak merits attention by a crossover audience.


Dana Elmendorf said...

Did you have a discussion at your home? Online? I would have loved to have been apart! Please let me know if you do it again because remember, we are one a few miles away from each other (north county)! I wish wish wish I had a book club around here. Especially in the YA genre. ANd I love your questions. (I also loved "techtarded", that had me giggling!)

Ara Burklund said...

Our book club rotates where we meet. Want to join? We're reading THE PARIS WIFE in September. I don't know why I thought you were in Orange County. That's awesome you're so close! : )

Dana Elmendorf said...

Yes but I have so much going on with boys and football I'm not sure how often I can participate right now. Do you have to participate every time? How do you guys select the book? Do you host them at your house? PUblic place? I have so many questions. I've never done a book club EVER. Sounds so sophisticated. Email me. girlw1eye at gmail dot com.

Ελλάδα said...

This book has been criticized and censored as a teaching tool due to the subject matter being considered too `difficult' and `dark' for such a young audience and the plot being too `formulaic.' The plot is a bit formulaic but this only accents the bare honesty of Melinda's troubles and the complex emotions she is feeling. Personally, I believe this book to be very true to life, correctly depicting the reactions of a rape victim who turns survivor.

Ara Burklund said...

Me too! I think SPEAK's brutal honesty is why so many people protest its inclusion in curriculum.

Micaella Lopez said...

Speak is a spectaculer book. I think everyone should read it because it is an inspiring story to tell the truth, and not keep things bottled up

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