Melinda Sordino hasn’t uttered a word in weeks. But given that she has no friends at school, no one seems to mind. The reason for her silence and her ostracism is something she’s still struggling to make sense of: at a big party over the summer, Melinda, preparing to start her first year of high school, was raped by a rising senior. She called the police and broke up the party, getting everyone in trouble, but none of her peers know why—a tension she describes in gutting first-person narration. In her 1999 novel Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson creates a raw, realistic and unforgettable narrator to tell a timeless story of survival. Before the rise of the MeToo movement, before Emma Sulkowicz carried a dorm-room mattress around Columbia, before Christine Blasey Ford and Chanel Miller testified—before young survivors had dozens of powerful, real-life examples to look to—there was Anderson and her urgent novel. A revered author of YA, Anderson drew on personal experience to offer an entry point for young readers and the adults who care about them to start talking about the importance of boundaries, respect for others and the power of speaking up. Speak, which has won numerous awards and sold more than 3 million copies around the world, is a young-adult classic—and an essential book for readers of all ages. —Lucy Feldman

Buy Now: Speak on Bookshop | Amazon

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at