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Speak (1999) is Laurie Halse Anderson’s first novel that calls attention to a critical, social issue that is common to girls entering teenagehood in the United States. The novel tells the specific story of the rape and subsequent selective silence of a ninth-grade protagonist named Melinda Sordino. Since the novel’s focus is on sexual violence and its associated traumatic responses, this paper offers an analysis of the novel through contemporary trauma theory. It presents Melinda’s painful narrative by depicting the impairment that the rape trauma causes in her behaviour, attitudes, thinking, interactions, and her overall well-being. In addition to exposing the adverse psychological effects on the victim, it scrutinises the tools she employs during her journey towards healing or recovery. This is done through demonstrating how Melinda’s resilience in the face of traumatic experience, reconciliation with her miserable situation, and acts of resistance to be changed by this experience can be read in the context of recovery rather than of madness and illness, as the traditional trauma theories could possibly suggest. Reading the novel through the lens of contemporary trauma theory makes one realise that Anderson’s work fulfils the goal of empowering survivors of rape, and it thus contributes to the recovery of those individuals who have undergone sexual violence at some point in their lives.
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