Review by Emily-Anne Mikos
Viking, Penguin Random House, 12 March 2019
296 pages, hardcover, $17.99 USD, 978-0-06-7001210-7
Ages 14-18, Grades 9-12
Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Poetry/Verse
the names of the charred survivor
who don’t know how fucking tough
in the fifth chamber
of my heart.
Their courage warms
me from the inside,
Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Speak in 1999 to encourage the discussion and awareness of sexual assault that was lacking at the time. Shout is the response to absence of change since then by further exploring what it means to be a survivor in the form of a poetic memoir. It showcases how Anderson’s own experience with sexual assault affected her throughout her life. By sharing her experience, she gives readers the chance to not only see the effects of sexual assault first hand, but learn how to move past it.
The novel itself is split into three sections, each recounting a different part of Anderson’s life. The honesty of the poems is powerful, exploring what her life looked like before her assault, the assault itself, and the aftermath. Anderson chooses to not dance around the subject matter, but faces the reality of it head on. When we read about the high school girls who are sexually harassed in the halls, and the principal’s choice to ignore them, we feel the weight of the situation. These are real people impacted by the ignorance and cowardice of the adults who are responsible for keeping them safe. Anderson paints us a very real picture of the world we live in, and how stories like Speak and Shout can change what we understand as normal and acceptable behaviour.
While the stories themselves always feel honest, sometimes the more personal poems lack an emotional perspective of the events unfolding. While Anderson does tackle personal subject matter—like her father’s alcoholism and her mother’s lack of a voice in her marriage—there is always an element of separation from Anderson’s own emotions. She explains what happened and how it affected her, such as when her father lost his job or when they had to go without food for a while, but avoids going into detail about her feelings about the situation. While I found the subject matter and the stories about other survivors to be powerful and enchanting, I would have liked to see a stronger connection between the poet and her writings.
Shout is an appropriate response to anyone who thinks the #MeToo movement is over. Anderson’s memoir-in-verse showcases the power of survivors coming together, and how speaking out can make a change for the better. I would recommend Shout to any reader who is looking for an impactful, true story.
Emily-Anne Mikos is a graduating student from the UBC Creative Writing BFA. She is currently writing her own novel and hopes to continue writing stories about women that don’t involve saviour complexes. She has decidedly abandoned real life for fictional worlds where bees are still thriving. #Savethebees.