Review of Speak: The Graphic Novel

Speak: The Graphic Novel
by Laurie Halse Anderson; illus. by Emily Carroll
High School    Farrar    376 pp.
2/18    978-0-374-30028-9    $19.99

In this new graphic novel adaptation of Anderson’s Speak (rev. 9/99) — a powerful narrative of a high school freshman’s year of self-preservation after a brutal sexual assault — artist Carroll starkly renders protagonist Melinda’s pain and healing in black and white, expertly deploying visual perspective and tension to sharpen the emotional impact. As she withdraws further and further under the strain of coping with her classmates’ cruelty and the terror of crossing paths with the senior who raped her at a party, silence becomes sanctuary. Art becomes a means of expression for her, making the graphic novel format especially resonant with the original theme. Much remains the same narratively as Melinda moves through a world and relationships that cannot be as they were but that still offer tentative hope. The addition of smartphones and social media provides some modern window dressing, and the juxtaposition of a tumultuous first-person narration with the third-person visual perspective will give even longtime devotees a new way to experience Melinda’s story.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

Anastasia M. Collins

Anastasia M. Collins is a children’s literature scholar and academic librarian. She holds an MS in library science and an MA in children’s literature from Simmons University and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.

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