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Melinda has the worst introduction to high school anybody could have. She called the cops at an end-of-the-summer party before her freshman year, and now all her former friends are mad at her. She even gets mashed potatoes lobbed at her in the school cafeteria.

But nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Melinda in Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful new novel "Speak" (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16 hardcover), a moving and disturbing examination of the cruel pecking order in the contemporary high school.

There's a mystery here, and the author waits to let you in on the secret of why Melinda called 911 from the party: A senior raped her.

But she tells no one, and her grades and relationships all slowly sink into the abyss. Then slowly, with the help of a sympathetic art teacher, Melinda gradually starts to recover from the trauma. The novel is told in Melinda's voice, and a wounded, witty and wonderful voice it is.

-- Jean Westmoore


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Having a passion crisis? Try the ginseng/yohimbe drink. Need to be refreshed? The aloe vera/nettles beverage offers a natural detox drink for your system. What better way to calm down and fuel up?


"In a recent episode, Isabel waved her hand over a spot on her clothes and made it disappear. I mean, how cool would that be? I totally wouldn't mind being able to wave my hand head to toe and have, like, a whole new outfit."

--"Roswell" star Katherine Heigl, who plays the alien Isabel on the spacey WB drama

"I'm trying to grow into a complete, well-rounded person, and I really am interested in learning and I'd feel really stupid if I stopped after high school."

--Actress Natalie Portman, on why she want to college.

-- Knight Ridder

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