Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Penguin Group
Number of Pages: 224
Advertised Age Level: Young Adult
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 14/9th grade
Language: no profanity
Sex: main character is raped but the act is never described
Drug/Alcohol Use: main character drinks beer in an episode that is only referred to, not described
Violence: main character is attacked by her rapist and nearly raped again
Social Issues: teen depression, rape, friendlessness, abandonment by friends, delinquency
Suggested Movie Grade: PG-13
Premise: Melinda Sordino begins high school not just unpopular but as an outright pariah. None of her old friends will speak to her, and even the kids she doesn’t know personally are talking about her behind her back. She earned this ostracism by calling the cops during an end-of-the summer party which caused a lot of people to get into a lot of trouble. What no one knows – what Melinda will not even let herself remember – is that she was raped during the party.
As Melinda struggles to deal with her assault, she becomes more and more depressed. Her grades take a nosedive, she does everything in her power to avoid people, and she barely even speaks. Her parents are at a loss as to what to do with her. To top it off, she must face her attacker at school, powerless to do anything. When he begins dating one of her former best friends, Melinda finally begins to wake up again, knowing that she can’t allow anyone else to become the next victim.
Potential Points of Concern: While Melinda’s attack is not described graphically and is told in flashback/as a memory, it is still a very disturbing incident. She is raped in the woods during a party by a boy she doesn’t know after having drank a couple of beers. Then she is nearly raped again when her attacker feels threatened after she finally tells someone what he had done to her. The second attack is told in real time and is much more intense and violent although the actual rape is stopped.
As Melinda spirals deeper into depression, she cares less and less about school, grades, everything. She skips class, fails to do homework and withdraws to the point of near muteness.
Told from Melinda’s point of view, all of the teachers at her school save one – the art teacher – are incompetent bullies.
Melinda’s one and only friend, Heather, ditches Melinda when she becomes part of a more popular group.
Melinda’s parents are aloof at best, negligent at worst. While they show concern about their daughter’s poor grades, they don’t seem to take any steps to address her blatant depression and become hostile and defensive when a school guidance counselor questions the stability of their marriage.
Age Appropriateness: Ages 13 and up
NOTE: This book has been made into a movie. The movie is rated PG-13.