(CNN) -- During 15 years of talking to high school students about sex and bullying, Laurie Halse Anderson has continued to get the same questions from boys: Why was the main character in her book, "Speak," so upset about what happened to her? Didn't she want the attention of one of the popular boys? And why was the impact so traumatic?
Anderson, who published the award-winning novel in 1999, believes the questions come from an honest place. They're teen boys, after all, growing up in a society where media and pop culture tell them women are created for sexual gratification.
They're not used to reading novels that feature characters like Melinda Sordino, a teen who is raped by a classmate at a house party. As her classmates and neighbors go to great lengths to protect her attacker, Melinda plunges into near-silence, refusing to say what happened while still feeling ostracized by her classmates.
Fifteen years after its publication, society has shed some of the stigma associated with sexual violence, but the conflict at the heart of "Speak" still shows up in headlines, from Steubenville, Ohio, to Maryville, Missouri.
And yet, many parents still struggle to find the words or the courage to talk to teens about sex and intimacy, Anderson said. As a mother who raised four girls, Anderson knows that parents today are navigating uncharted territory when it comes to adolescent sexuality, and they're doing it earlier than parents in other generations.
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