Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speak, drastically changed the ways in which authors wrote about teenage characters, helping to usher in the modern young adult genre as we know it today. After Anderson’s story of a high school student reckoning with the rage and pain of her rape became a bestseller, the dark and painful parts of adolescent life were up for exploring, and the coming-of-age experience was worth writing about.
Now, Anderson is breaking ground again with a memoir-in-verse that challenges categorization and the ways we’ve thought about the YA genre for the past 20 years.
Anderson, now 57, begins with short glimpses into her tumultuous early childhood in upstate New York, and we quickly learn about her veteran father’s PTSD and ensuing domestic violence, which informed her 2014 novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. But the ferociously raw, burning heart of this memoir is the recounting of her rape at the age of 13. In searing free verse, Anderson unloads decades of trauma on these pages. Although younger teens will benefit from being able to unpack and discuss many passages with an emotionally available adult, there’s good reason to believe that SHOUT will become popular assigned reading in classrooms around the country—especially in light of our atrocious cultural problem with rape, sexual abuse and consent.
Longtime Anderson fans will appreciate this deeply personal look into how the author channeled her pain into the writing of Speak, and readers new to her work will be swept up in her singular style, which melds bold honesty with fluttering moments of lyrical beauty.