Speak: The Graphic Novel
By Laurie Halse Anderson, Illustrated by Emily Carroll
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, BYR 2018
Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
Other formats: kindle
Melinda is the kid no one likes, the girl who called the cops on a high school drinking party and got everyone in trouble. Now she roams through her life at school in baggy clothes, keeping near total silence.
But what really happened at that party? And why can’t Melinda bring herself to tell?
Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking young adult novel, Speak, was first published in 1999. All these years later, with the #MeToo movement in full swing, we find that Speak: the Graphic Novel is just as relevant today.
With chilling black and white illustrations by Emily Carroll and dialogue taken directly from the original novel, Anderson pulls the reader inside a girl’s experience with sexual assault at the hands of one of her own classmates. Melinda has not told anyone the truth and blames herself in the convoluted way of so many victims. And every day she sees her attacker continue to enjoy the highest social status at school, even as he grooms new victims for his aggressions. The sense of dread is palpable on the pages. Sinking deeper into her depression, Melinda finds respite only in her art class, where she can access her voice and feelings without words. The graphic format of the novel is a perfect complement to Melinda’s journey to use art as a way to name the most horrific acts and lay them bare.
This is a hard story: Melinda is blamed and cruelly ostracized. She learns to hate and hurt herself. But ultimately, the novel is about her resilience and survival despite an entire community that would prefer not to believe or support her. Her strength shines through all the trauma.
Sometimes, girls have to reclaim their power after its been stolen from them. Speak: the Graphic Novel shows them how to win it back. MM