Speak: The Graphic Novel
Every so often, I come across a book that just devastates me. Something that completely upends my world for a time, and causes me to ruminate on life in general, or my position, or issues that face us as a society. These are the stories that I will carry with me to my grave - ones that have imprinted on me so heavily that even on my death bed, I'll be telling folks "Look, you've got to read this". Speak is one of those stories. *As a side note, consider this a trigger warning* Melinda is an outcast from the first day of high school, because of something that happened over the summer. High school is difficult enough as is, but Melinda is also plagued by classmates that hate her, teachers that are too wrapped up in their own politics, parents who hate each other, and a secret - a secret that is slowly eating away at her. She is struggling to just make it through the school year and deal with the fact that she was raped. Shunned by her peers, ignored by her former best friend, misunderstood by her parents, Melinda is slowly sinking into despair, which is only made worse by the fact that her attacker attends her school. What can a scared 14 year old girl do, especially when she doesn't have anyone she can talk to? Originally released in the late 90s, Speak is as powerful today as it was when it originally debuted, and still resonates with an immediacy and impact that feels like a kidney punch out of nowhere. Set long before the #metoo movement, this is a story that is, unfortunately, far too common and far too relevant in this day and age. Anderson's tale of struggle for identity and self redemption is intimate and immediate, forcing the reader to inhabit Melinda's head space, at times claustrophobic and despair inducing. I kept finding myself railing against the other characters, wishing they would see how much damage they were doing to this poor girl, even though they didn't realize they were doing so. Carroll visually expresses the alienation, hurt, and despair Melinda suffers through, as well as the general oblivion her schoolmates, parents and teachers exude. At turns emotionally injurious, infuriating, and even uplifting, Speak continues to tell a powerful story for a new generation of readers, a generation that needs to understand the devastation of such a horrific event, and that the only way to combat it is to make people aware that it is unacceptable, under any circumstance, regardless of who the parties are. The only way to help prevent, or mitigate and rectify such an event is to speak up, speak out. Make their voices heard, so it doesn't happen to anyone else. Speak is a mature title due to subject matter, but is one of those titles that I feel should be incorporated into every freshman orientation class, regardless of what districts or parents may think. Powerful, moving, and a true emotional roller coaster, Speak is an absolute must read for everyone.