Courtney Luk
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Book Reviews

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Speak: the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a personal inspiration of mine, let alone a widely acknowledged canonical novel of modern times. And now, with the artistry of Emily Carroll, it has become a graphic novel. Carroll’s black-and-white drawings bring a rough and edgy atmosphere to the text, emphasizing the interiority during the scenes in which Melinda vividly recalls what happened to her the night of party. Carroll takes these moments and gracefully yet devastatingly depicts the horror in a way that is frightening but may not be as triggering for some readers as they would think, though anxiety still rattles the bones.

As a whole, Speak: the graphic novel reads much like how a movie adaption would be seen. The main character is much more melodramatic, but somehow we still lose much of Melinda’s interiority about the incident that shakes her to her core. The graphic novel seems to revolve so much around other subplots and Melinda’s external relationships that the main plot of the assault is buried. If I hadn’t read the original Speak, I may have forgotten the main point of the novel. First, there’s the new girl Heather, losing Melinda’s old friends, art class and drawing trees, Melinda’s poor grades, family dysfunction, in-school suspension, rules of the school and bullying, etc. There’s so much that distracts the reader from Melinda and her journey of recovery that is more focused in the original novel that is missed in the graphic novel.

My guess, as a reader and a part of the industry, is that the goal of Speak: the graphic novel is to grasp onto the gaining popularity of graphic novels at the current moment, capture the new generation of readers, and gear them toward reading the original Speak. I’m not against this method. I think this is a great way of repackaging a modern classic, but lovers of the original novel shouldn’t expect grand changes but enjoy the wonderful artwork by Emily Carroll.

This novel is still relevant today. Teachings of consent is still needed today. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on one of them, I highly recommend one or both of these books.

Find Speak: the graphic novel here.