Physiologists usually agree that the teenage years are among the most difficult periods in one’s life. Most teens are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe, and how they fit into the world around them. Beginning in the late 1970s, a whole genre of fiction, referred to as coming-of-age literature, emerged and serves, at least for many teens, as believable presentations of young people learning to navigate the difficulties of their lives, often fraught with feelings of rejection, seemingly unresolved personal turmoil, social problems, school and family issues, etc. Indeed one value of reading is to see and better understand some aspect of ourselves through studying others. The reading of SPEAK, a somewhat controversial book because of its subject matter – rape -, is a worthwhile endeavor in any middle school classroom and offers many valuable life lessons to young teens.
Throughout someone’s experience of reading this inspiring novel, he or she can come to realize how important art can be in a person’s life. Mr. Freeman, Melinda’s art teacher, helps Melinda understand that life is like art. When a mistake is made in life, there is a chance to start anew, just like erasing a drawing and starting over. Mr. Freeman introduced his class by saying, “Welcome to the only class that will teach you how to survive.” (10) In art class, some of Melinda’s projects represent her life because they can change from being scary, “dead”, and mysterious, to being beautiful, just like Melinda. Ivy, a fellow student in art class, said to Melinda, “That turkey bone thing you did was creepy, too. Creepy in a good way, good creepy.” (145) Mr. Freeman also plays a big part in helping Melinda, whose name means “I am pretty”, realize her full potential. His name, Freeman indicates that he will help Melinda free herself from her woes and worries. Mr. Freeman is Melinda’s mentor and only caring parental figure. ‘“Melinda,” Mr. Freeman says, “You’re a good kid. I think you have a lot to say. I’d like to hear it.”’ (123) Without art and Mr. Freeman, Melinda would not have beeb be able to open up to anyone.
Mr. Freeman: “You’ve been through a lot haven’t you?” (198)
Melinda: “Let me tell you about it.” (198)
During Melinda’s freshman year at Merrywhether High, she learns the importance of second chances through sports. In PE, the two sports that help Melinda cope with her trauma are basketball and tennis. Melinda is good at shooting free throws, which is fitting because free throws are rewarded to a person when he or she has been fouled. Melinda was “fouled” and she acknowledged the significance of shooting free throws in her life at the time. She said, “The other team fouls you, you get to pay them back. Boom.” (76) It is telling that Melinda seems to like the...