After something unspeakable happens to incoming freshman Melinda Sordino at a party over the summer, she earns the ire of her former friends and future classmates when she calls the police to report the event but ultimately can’t explain it. Now that she’s in school, she’s treated as an outcast; no one will speak to her except to torment her. To make matters worse, the adults in her life are oblivious or unable to see past her behavior to get to the cause of her breakdown. Unsure of what to say or to whom she can say it, Melinda goes silent.
Carroll uses a grayscale palette to wonderful effect in this highly successful and modernized graphic novel adaptation of Anderson’s classic, and the accessible writing is all the more commanding due to Melinda’s authentic voice. Some pages are text heavy, with a dramatic white on black design, while others alternate between minimalist art and chaotic, nontraditional, or overlapping panels. Stunning silhouettes – often used in moments of high emotion – and Melinda’s wide range of facial expressions lend more gravitas to an already powerful story about navigating tragedy in a high school setting. Although Speak is about a serious transgression, the act itself is called directly by its name and artistically included but not explicitly depicted.