Saturday, March 31, 2018
speak: the graphic novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson with artwork by Emily Carroll. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2018. $25.99 ages 14 and up
drawing. Guess we have an
artist in the family now, huh?
They noticed I've been trying
to draw. They noticed.
I try to swallow the snowball
in my throat. I could tell them
what happened. They might
have heard a rumor about the
party. What would they say?"
If you read Speak (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999), you will know how heartbreaking Melinda's story is.
This graphic novel, created for a new audience, brings the repercussions of her attendance at a summer's end party to the forefront. She has not even started high school, and already she is targeted as the girl who called the police and brought an end to that party. No one knows what happened that night, and Melinda can't tell them.
As she struggles, she becomes withdrawn and less willing to speak at all. She skips school, does not complete assignments, and becomes more and more depressed. Only her art teacher is able to reach out her, helping her to express her thoughts and feelings through her love of art.
The combination of images and words bring new attention to Melinda's inability to face the demons that plague her, to battle the lies and verbal attacks of her schoolmates, to begin to find her voice again, and to finally speak her truth about what happened to her at the party. Using a limited gray/black palette Emily Carroll undoubtedly shows the depth of Melinda's depression. The characters are real and expressive, the dialogue clearly represents the original story, and every emotion that Melinda feels is felt by the reader.
This harrowing story of sexual assault and its lasting consequences is handled with empathy and even wit, at times. The first person narration is painful, unmistakable, and effective. The transformation of a compelling book I read so long ago keeps the story current and allows new readers a powerful look inside Melinda's life as she begins to come to terms with her day-to-day reality.