Friday, March 11, 2011

Books You Should Have Read in Middle School (but You Can Still Read them Now).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson  and Cut by Patricia MacCormick are two books that I think any middle schooler should read- but if you didn't catch them then, you should still pick them up now.  While both books are narrated by female protagonists, I don't think that should exclude a male readership as both books go a long way in explaining things that could happen to anyone.

Speak is the story of a girl who is raped at a party, which leads to about a year of her not speaking to anyone.  It takes the more common, "Girl won't tell about or talk about her rape," story to a much deeper level.  At one point, the girl attempts to tell a friend what happened and why she's not speaking through notes passed in a study hall, but the friend doesn't believe her, only causing a continued inward spiral.  

The girl won't speak to anyone in her life, but in her narration she often gives the responses she might have given.  I think that because the narrator is silent in her life, it necessitates and facilitates the completeness of our understanding of her inner life.  It is a very powerful book, and a wonderful read, especially for young people who need to know that if this kind of thing ever happened to them, it's okay to talk about it, and it isn't their fault.

Cut runs in a very similar vein to Speak.  It is, as the title implies, about a girl who cuts herself.  She is a quite girl, but she does talk.  Much of the book takes place in the rehabilitation center her parents take her to after discovering her self-mutilation.  In that center, she meets not only another girl who cuts- and wears her scars proudly, in contrast to our narrator who hides hers- but is put into a therapy group with various anorexic and bulimic girls as well.  

The beauty of Cut is in not only the narrator's journey from hardly knowing why she hurts herself to a wonderful scene in which she finally commits to getting better, but in the way it addresses the rehab center and the girls around her in their various degrees of dealing with their own issues.  Every character is presented as just a real girl dealing with her very real issues, they are never treated as some kind of total negative or some kind of unredeemable person.  Even the story of the other cutter who is so public and confident in her scars is presented with the care she deserves.

I believe it made a difference in my life that I read these books in middle school.  They are both still on my shelf, waiting for me to decide to re-read them someday, and I think that day is creeping up soon.  So even though you may be long past the target age range of these novels, they are still good reads, and something to pass along to the young people in your life. 


Gabrielle said...

Hey, I've read both of those! It's not very often that I can say that, haha. However, I didn't read Speak until high school!

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