Saturday, September 6, 2014

100 Book Project: Book #71 - I Call her Hairwoman.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

One peek inside the cover got me super excited.  As you read this I don't think you can truly imagine the pile of 60+ books my students have assigned me but that I haven't read yet. I know there are two more military autobiographies, a book by LeBron James, more Nicholas Sparks, a book called 2012, and a few books that can't be shorter than 700 pages of tiny text and look as exciting as poking myself in the eye.

This book was assigned to me by Allison M, the same student who lent me "the curious tale of the dog in the night," a student whose taste in books is so good that I would often ask her to go to my book cabinet and pick out the next book for me.

While many of these books have been positive experiences, some of them have been torture (I'm talking to you Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 5 books in one!) and it helps to have someone navigate the book order with me.I sincerely hope the universe creates a great job for Allison where she is paid to recommend books to people.

  Besides that, since she's been so helpful, I get to write about her and remind the world for every one blooper they see on my feed (ex: Pretest: What's the name of our National Anthem? One student answered: "Born Free") there are ten or more amazingly prepared students who are thirsty to learn as much as they can so they can become who they wish to be.

Speak is a great book; it belongs on your shelf by A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,  Unwind, by The Fault in Our Stars, The Virgin Diaries, Dogs of Babel and other books that tell raw stories that move your heart.

  I don't want to ruin this book  but I can't write this review without spoiling the essence of the plot.
Go get this book and read it and definitely give it to your sister/friend/daughter/niece/mom.

When you're done, come back and read this review, OK?

Review (CAUTION: Spoilers ahead!!)

 I completely fall in love with fourteen year old Melody on page #6 as she is walking through her first day.
  "My English teacher has no face. She has uncombed stringy hair that droops on her shoulders. The hair is black from her part to her ears, and then neon orange to the frizzy ends. I can't decide if she had pissed off her hairdresser or is morphing into a monarch butterfly. I call her Hairwoman."

This book covers the span of one school year - four grading sessions - as we follow Melody entering High School and finding herself outcast and bullied.  Apparently she is to blame for calling the cops on the coolest party that summer, leading to several arrests.

 None of her friends acknowledge her, and no one protects her from shoves, pulls and verbal jabs.

 Melody won't speak. She stares at the ground, into space, and thinks funny wonderfully endearing  thoughts but nothing comes out her mouth

Halfway through this book I realize Melody must be suffering from PTSD and depression; she is withdrawn numb and sad,  rarely washes her hair or clothes, never speaks, skips classes and is failing out of school.

I hope Melody doesn't kill herself.

 She spirals lower and lower with no one to pull her back up because the only "friend" she has for most of the book is Heather, a lonely self-centered transfer from Ohio who ultimately "breaks up" with Melody because she is so boring.

About halfway into the book the narrator recounts what really happened at the party.

She had her first drink, she was standing outside, and older student named Andy Evans raped her.

Melody tried to scream for help but she couldn't and no one helped her but when he walked away she called 911 and tried to say she'd been raped but she couldn't speak. Several teens saw Melody make the call and so everyone knew who to blame when the cops came and broke the party up.

Towards the end of the book  Melody's (ex) longtime best friend Rachel has a huge crush on the guy who raped Melody.  They haven't talked since that awful summer night, and while Melody stings from Rachel's overt scorn she still reaches out to her.

They almost talk but it turns to notes passed back and forth in the library where Melody explaining what had happened that night and Rachel responds with shock, asking supportive compassionate questions:
 why didn't you tell me? 
(I couldn't) 
Does your Mom know? 
Did you get pregnant? 
Are you OK??????
(Andy Evans) 
  Rachel loses her sh**t and calls her a jealous liar and a twisted freak and all that good stuff.

That crucial selfless act of admitting what had happened  gave Melody the courage to speak up, well not speak, but to write something on the bathroom wall.

 Right, ok, pretend that's cool. The book is set before the era of snapchat and kik and askfm, so writing on the wall was culturally accepted-ish.

On a bathroom wall filled with lists and quotes and cartoons, Melody writes Guys to Stay Away From: Andy Evans. Days later other girls have added a bunch of comments including "He's a creep!" "He should be locked up" and "Call the cops"

Rachel ignores Melody's warning and goes to Prom with Andy Evans and guess what? He's all over her like a crazy octopus. She's grossed out by him and  leaves him. Yayyyy Rachel.

Just when the book was having a nice ending, Andy the rapist surprises Melody, locking the two of them in a dark closet. He growls at her that he knows she's been spreading lies....
"I never raped anybody. I don't have to. You wanted it just as bad as I did. But your feelings got hurt and now every girl in school is talking about me like I'm a pervert... what's wrong, ugly, you jealous? Can't get a date?...Oh no you're not going anywhere. You're not going to scream. You didn't scream before...."
I would tell you what happens next, but I've already told you enough and you need to hear Melody's story in her own words.