Speak: The Graphic Novel

Laurie Halse Anderson's 1999 young adult novel, Speak, is a seminal work in young adult literature that helped to pave the way for many of the incredible works we've seen in the almost 20 years since its publication. This new edition, Speak: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Anderson herself and illustrated by Eisner Award winner Emily Carroll, is as painful as it is prepossessing.

Right before her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda attended an end-of-summer party. For reasons unknown to her peers, Melinda called the police and busted the party. Now, on her first day at her brand-new school, she is already an outcast, despised by almost all of her classmates, including Rachel, her "ex-best friend." Melinda, dealing with a trauma that is left unspoken for most of the work, quickly draws inside of herself, becoming small and almost completely silent. "It's getting harder to talk," she thinks, "My throat is always sore, my lips raw, like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." She falls into a deep depression, feeling as if there is "a beast" in her guts, "scraping away at the inside of [her] ribs." The illustrations accompanying this thought--a wolf, bare tree limbs, blood drops--are all black, pressing in on the text, surrounding and suffocating it.

Using pencil and charcoal, the entire graphic novel is illustrated in grayscale, allowing the work to be as visually dark as its content. Strong lines, overlapping panels and clever use of blank space show Carroll's skill in creating Melinda's stifling, near-silent world. Speak: The Graphic Novel is hypnotizing and heart-breaking, with the kind of empowering finish that unshackles protagonist and readers alike. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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