Review of SHOUT: A Poetry Memoir

SHOUT: A Poetry Memoir
by Laurie Halse Anderson
High School    Viking    290 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-670-01210-7    $17.99

“This is the story of a girl who lost her voice and wrote herself a new one.” So opens Anderson’s three-part autobiographical collection of dynamic, mostly free-verse poems that serves as a potent poetic endnote for her landmark novel Speak (rev. 9/99). In the first third, she recounts the painful origin story of her alcoholic parents (“two ships ripped from their moorings”), a confusing childhood full of frequent moves, and the harrowing rape, when she was thirteen, that was the basis for Speak. Suffering silently through ninth grade, Anderson eventually finds her words again through the kind attention of teachers, a robust sports schedule, and a student-exchange program that places her with a nurturing family in Denmark. She follows this section (which takes her into adulthood and Speak’s publication) with a series of impassioned poems about sexual assault, censorship, menstruation, sex and love, and consent, born of the hundreds of personal stories confided to her at author visits, book festivals, and conferences. These poems address topics ranging from the #MeToo movement to clergy sexual abuse, in muscular stanzas that both heal and hit back. Anderson concludes with a quiet set of reflective family poems that makes peace with her now-deceased parents. By turns angry, commanding, raw, and wistful, this collection is a praise song to survivors, a blistering rebuke to predators, and a testament to the healing power of shared stories.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Jennifer Hubert Swan
Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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