When he was eighteen years old, my father
saw his buddy's head sliced into two pieces,
sawn just above the eyebrows by an exploding
brake drum, when he was in the middle
of telling a joke.
Premise/plot: Shout is the memoir of Laurie Halse Anderson; it is written in verse. Anderson may best be known for her young adult novel, Speak. Speak stars a young girl, a freshman, named Melinda. In the summer Melinda was raped--the boy who raped her, aka IT, attends the same school. Melinda struggles. I was going to try to find the right words to say what she struggles with--but there are no right words. Her whole life is effected by what happened and the fact that she has not spoken up or shared her story with anyone is largely what the novel is about. Well, partly. The book, in my opinion, is about the injustices embedded within the system. Everyone makes assumptions about who Melinda is--makes judgments--without bothering to get to know Melinda. Speak is not strictly autobiographical. But Laurie Halse Anderson has her own experiences to share, her own IT from the past. One doesn't just "get over" sexual assault. The memoir shares her journey from childhood to adulthood. The memoir also gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse of an author's life. (How she got started writing, the long, long struggle to get published, the writing of Speak and other books, author visits and tours, receiving mail from readers, etc.) Speak resonated--has continued to resonate--with readers. It has helped people speak up about their own experiences with sexual assault. Many have shared their stories with Laurie Halse Anderson.
My thoughts: This is a compelling read. It is a dark read in some ways but also an inspirational one. It isn't without hope or "light" at the "end of the tunnel." The subject matter is mature. But the mature content doesn't mean it's inappropriate or "bad." The truth is that sexual assault can happen at any age. In a perfect, perfect world sheltering kids--tweens, teens--from the harsh realities of the potential dangers would make sense. But our world is far from perfect. Not speaking about something doesn't make that something go away. (That being said, how a subject is discussed differs with the age of the audience.) Shout uses strong language but not in an excessive, inappropriate way. (At least 99% of the time.) Shout is honest even when it ventures into the raw emotions of pain and confusion. There is something to be said for honesty, for putting away the mask that everything is fine, that everything is okay.
From the poem, "Lovebrarians"
I unlocked the treasure chest
and swallowed the key. (27)
From the poem, "Payback"
After Charlotte's Web
but before Little Women,
my sister stole the key
to my green plastic diary,
and blackmailed me
with what she found. (33)
Maybe I owe her,
for stealing the key, toying
with my secrets, and thus igniting
the slow-fused inevitablity
of me weaving stories
in the dark. (34)
From the poem, "Diagnosis"
untreated painFrom the poem "How the Story Found Me"
is a cancer of the soul
that can kill you. (69)
too many grown-ups tell kids to follow© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
like that's going to get them somewhere
Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead
cuz when you figure out what's eating you alive
you can slay it. (160)