Title: Speak: The Graphic Novel
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrator: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
“Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless—an outcast—because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her.
Speak was a young adult novel written in 1999 about the rape and subsequent bullying of a high school freshman. The novel is based partially on the author’s personal experiences and has received international praise. The book has won multiple awards and is on the ALA’s list of 100 most challenged books from 2000-2009. While I had never read the original book, it had always been on my list of books that I’ve wanted to read but have been a little afraid to.
I was surprised to find a graphic novelization of the book and decided to pick it up and I’m honestly really glad that I did. It reminded me why graphic novels are such a wonderful medium for telling a story and how the format can do some things that novels can’t. Art is a pretty big theme in this novel and so being able to have a visual representation of Melinda’s art as well as the pain and depression that she suffers through is brilliant. The use of rabbits to show Melinda’s hypervigilance really add to the story, expressing her emotions in a way that is striking.
Aspects of the story have also been updated considering it has been almost 20 years since the original story was published, which was a great idea I think for making the novel more relatable and approachable for modern day young adults. In some ways I think that the graphic novel may make this difficult story easier to digest for many.
As for the story itself, I liked the scattered narrative, it was an accurate depiction of what depression and post-traumatic stress disorder is like. Even so the story was empowering in the central message of finding your voice to stand up to something or someone that may be scary to protect others. The resolution was a little too neat and clean for my liking, but I liked the story nonetheless and the ending made me a little teary eyed. I’m glad that I decided to pick up this graphic novel and would like to pick up the novel in the future.
Strengths: Heartfelt and empowering, wonderfully illustrated, updated for newer generations
Weaknesses: Details likely left out due to format, resolution isn’t realistic
Warnings: Trigger warning, rape, bullying