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Hanna's Letter to Laurie Halse Anderson
By Hanna Schweitzer
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Year: 2007 Category: Letters About Literature

Dear Laurie Halse Anderson,

I read your book Speak, and would like you to know that it really helped me understand high school. When I first read your book, I was in 8th grade, and was getting ready for high school. After reading about Melinda, the biggest lesson of the book was not to judge people without knowing them.

At first, it scared me a little bit, because you described the first day of school as though it was a nightmare. The peer pressure and the huge variety of high school cliques made it seem as though high school would be unbearable. When I started to think about it, I realized what you had described was pretty much my experience of the first day of middle school.

After comparing myself to Melinda Sordino, I knew I was prepared for high school. I have friends who would stand by me no matter what, I receive good grades, and I am not a problem to be around. Although I do not exactly know how Melinda must have felt, I can understand how awful it must have been to know you have no one to talk to, that will actually listen. She went through a lot, and stood up for what she believed in and, in the end, she was able to find acceptance from her peers. I'm grateful I did not start off high school the way Melinda did, and I am wondering whether this was a true story? Did this happen to you?

Thanks to your book, I was able to help the kids at my school who were like Melinda. I met one girl in particular, Stacy, who was in my Biology class. There were rumors going around that she had been raped. Although no one knew this as a fact, they still continued to talk about her. She was able to do all of the Biology assignments, so many kids just talked to her in order to receive answers. One day, I walked past her, and saw someone push his way through her, as if she did not even exist. This image made me think of how Melinda was treated, and I knew this was not right. I decided I was going to help this girl. So, next time we were in Biology, I walked up to her, and started a conversation, and soon got to know her fairly well. She was actually a very nice girl, and enjoyed basketball as much as I did. To help her out, so she wasn't an outcast like Melinda, I brought her into my circle of friends. At first, they did not approve, but when they started to get to know her, my friends liked her a lot. In the end, it turned out that she hadn't actually been raped, but that she had hung out with the wrong people in middle school, so they started rumors about her. After I read your book, it opened my eyes to the people around me. Reading your book influenced me to help this poor girl, so she did not have to suffer like Melinda. Your book has inspired me, and many others as well.

I would just like to thank you again for allowing me to have a feel for what high school is like, without even being there. Also, your book has influenced me to help people around me, and to not say anything I do not know as a fact. Again, your book was very touching and very well written.

Hanna Schweitzer

9th Grade
West Valley High School, Fairbanks, Alaska
Teacher:  Carrie Heimer

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