I was talking to a friend the other night about how we think Laurie Halse Anderson doesn't get as much credit in the Young Adult Fiction community as she deserves. Not that she hasn't had a really huge impact on YA, but that people just don't talk about that impact as much as they do with other authors. Anderson is a BAMF when it comes to YA, and I'm going to tell you why.
I had the pleasure of meeting Anderson in the eighth grade. It was a random occurrence, and I'm not sure how myself and two friends managed to speak to her after a middle school presentation she did at Unami Middle School. Somehow we managed to talk with her for a few moments, a photograph was taken for the school newspaper, and it is probably a memory I will cherish for a long time. It is probably another catalyst that gave me the drive to pursue writing.
At the time Speak was in it's hey day, and we were told that we had to read one of Anderson's books because she was coming to do a presentation. I hated middle school, and being constantly compared to my rocket-scientist smarter older brother (no really, he is actually a rocket scientist now), so I didn't really pay attention to that announcement. I was pressed for time to read one of her books, so a friend leant me Speak and I couldn't put it down. I don't think I ever gave it back, because there's a copy on my shelf and I don't remember buying it. (Sorry Kristi) I read it in 3 days flat, and I couldn't get enough of it.
It was one of the first times that I really related to a character that felt uncomfortable in their own skin. It was also one of the few books that had been thrust upon us that I actually gave a damn about, because Melinda talked like us, and thought like us, and we could clearly see the plight she struggled with. And maybe some of us had dealt with a similar situation. I was not one of those kids, but I knew this book was important.
Speak was such a powerful book, and it's crazy that it came out 15 years ago! Kelly Jensen did an interview with Anderson for Book Riot back in April, and the author herself put into words why she thinks so many readers have latched onto this story:
I think it's because everyone has had a bad thing happen to them and has struggled to figure out how to speak up. Everyone has felt alone and not heard.In the article, Jensen asks about the implications that this novel has any connections to Penguin's teen imprint, also called Speak.
Penguin threw a lot of energy and love at Speak and when the time came a few years later to name a new teen imprint, they called it Speak, which was a huge honor.So yes, Speak was so powerful in the early 2000s that it essentially made Penguin want to name their teen book imprint after it. Knowing that, how can you not think Anderson's impact on the YA makes her a BAMF?
It does, shut up, go read her books. NO REALLY!
Speak wasn't Anderson's only success. I haven't read her newest novel The impossible Knife of Memory yet, but I am confident it will be another book that leaves me wanting to improve my writing. Her writing style has been referred to as "resilience lit" and with books like Twisted and Wintergirls also under her belt, I think it fits perfectly. She has this chilling writing style that steps you into the minds of the characters and really makes you think once you finish reading that last page.
Anderson is one of the Big Three of young adult authors that I continue to go back to both for inspiration to become a better writer, and to read a story I know I will enjoy all the way through. I highly recommend her books.
Let me know your favorite Laurie Halse Anderson book in the comments below!
Happy Reads Everyone!