When I learned a few months ago that Laurie Halse Anderson’s 1999 YA classic Speak was being adapted as a graphic novel, I assumed it would be just that, an adaptation. The new version of Speak is more than that though. Way more.
Speak: The Graphic Novel is still the story of Melinda, a freshman who was raped at a party and is now ostracized at school because she summoned police to the party. The art teacher is still here, and the tree is still significant. This re-telling of Speak retains all the essence of the original, but some aspects are updated, including the presence of cell phones and the internet. A few other plot elements are different, and readers familiar with the novel will notice and appreciate the variations.
The graphic novel format brings many new dimensions to this story as the artful arrangement of text and images takes us inside the mind and emotions of this brave, damaged young woman. We see the surreal images swirling in Melinda’s mind. We visualize somewhat disorienting juxtapositions in ways that text doesn’t allow. Artist Emily Carroll’s black-and-white renderings effectively convey the drama of a victim who will not use words in most situations, although the last few pages do more than speak—they shout!
Speak: The Graphic Novel stands alongside the original novel as a powerful alternative way of telling Melinda’s story. It will absorb both new readers and those who have long known the relevance of Laurie Halse Anderson and Speak.