I read this fantastic book called Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson! I'd been reading about how influential it was on a handful of blogs I read, including Paperback Treasures, a YA book blog that I read, where the 17 year-old author put it #1 on her list of Books that Made Me Think and then immediately said it was not creative because it was such an obvious choice. Because everyone's already read it. Except me.
Also it's come under attack by people who would like to censor it. I like going out of my way to read banned books just because some jerk out there said not to.
It starts with Melinda going to school for the first day of the term - she feels like an outcast, and all of her friends have turned on her. Something happened over the summer, but it's not quite clear at the beginning. This isn't sugar-coated Sweet Valley High, Melinda's been through some trauma, and she's suffering. For example, on cheerleaders:
In one universe, they are georgeous, straight-teethed, long-legged, wrapped in designer fashions, and given sports cars on their sixteenth birthdays. Teachers smile at them and grade them on the curve. They know the first names of the staff. They are the Pride of the Trojans. Oops - I mean Pride of the Blue Devils.Eventually the reader learns that Melinda was raped by a classmate at a party over the summer, and was too terrified to say anything to anyone. Her parents are absorbed with their own issues and most of her teachers treat students as aggressors or delinquents. When Melinda's grades start to sink, and she speaks less and less, she easily starts to disappear in the cracks of the school. Still terrorized by the student who raped her (she calls him "IT" because she can't even think his name), Melinda is this brilliant, witty young woman that's just trying to keep her head down - so it's really amazing when she starts to turn the corner and become more assertive. She doesn't tell anyone what happened, but she wants to stop it from happening again, to another girl.
In Universe #2, they throw parties wild enough to attract college students. They worship the stink of Eau de Jocque. They rent beach houses in Cancún during Spring Break and get group-rate abortions before the prom.
The final pages of Speak are really amazing - I nearly shouted and certainly did a fair amount of crying - it was inspiring and empowering to read - a great book for women of any age, I highly recommend it.