Junior Luke Condie reviews another book for the Prowl titled "Speak".


Abby Landwehr

Luke Condie recent read the book "Speak" and his review was published on the Prowl.

Warning: Mild spoilers and one big spoiler ahead. I’m sorry, but to properly review this I need to tell you about it.

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Artist: Emily Carroll

Rating: 13+

Plot Summary: Victim of sexual assault goes through depression, fear of telling people what happened, and PTSD before overcoming basically all of it and emerging stronger at the end of the school year.

Plot: 10/10

This is the best graphic novel I have ever read, hands down. The story follows a freshman who was sexually assaulted over the summer, and because of that and events related to that has become a social pariah plagued by flashbacks, PTSD, nerves, fear, depression, and probably a few other things I missed. Apparently, this book is actually based off of the novel version of the author’s experiences (and yes, that means EXACTLY what you think it does). You’ll honestly be pretty depressed for the first 300-ish pages (unless you don’t have a soul or something), but the last 70-ish pages are so inspiring you’ll be cheering this girl along (note: I mean this figuratively. If you start cheering out of nowhere, people are gonna give you some funny looks).

Also, there’s some dark and depressing humor interspersed throughout the book. So there’s that.

Art: 11/10

Ho. Ly. CRAP. The artwork in this is AMAZING. I’m not sure what awards Emily Carroll has gotten, but she deserves them ALL and then some. For much of this book, the gray, black, and white make everything feel appropriately dull, hopeless, and depressing, and the stylistic choices add to the gloomy ambiance. Then, with no major shifts in style, the artwork in the last part of the book makes you feel hopeful and encouraged. And then there are all the details… seriously, I could go on about this for a while, but Capp wants me to keep my word count down. *shrugs*

Characters: 10/10

When reading this, keep in mind that at least two (probably four) of these people are based off of real people.

Melinda Sordino: Our protagonist. Read about her problems above, I’m not typing all of that twice. Great person who at first just lies down and lets the world walk all over her, but eventually decides she’s done with everyone’s crap and starts acting like the awesome person she is (I’m so proud). Fun fact: her last name is Italian for “deaf.”

Andy Evans: This guy… oh, I hate him so much. He’s a creep disguised as the quintessential high school “cool guy.” I honestly can’t say more without compromising my personal spoiler ban.

Heather: At first, you think she’s just an airhead with ambitions to become popular. Then, you realize that those ambitions have made her desperate, manipulative, and a bit of a witch, and you lose sympathy for her.

Mrs. and Mr. Sordino: Two harried, stressed parents who fell out of love a few years ago, but are still trying to keep it together for their daughter (I give them some credit for that). They don’t really understand what’s going on, but they do improve somewhat as the book goes on.

Mr. Freeman: Melinda’s art teacher, a person who thinks deep thoughts, and probably the biggest positive influence on Melinda. Cool dude.

David Petrakis: A smart, brave guy in Melinda’s class who has the guts to stand up to a racist teacher and is one of only a few people to reach out to Melinda.

Content: 10/10

This book has some heavy stuff. The aforementioned depression and PTSD, sexual violence (thankfully not drawn explicitly, or I wouldn’t be able to read it)… this book perfectly displays the seamy side of high school life and life in general.

Mood: 10/10

Well, this is all very depressing. It’s done amazingly well, however. You can almost feel the fear, anxiety, and sorrow plaguing Melinda, and her triumph near the end of the book touches you deeply.

Diversity: 8/10

Honestly, this category doesn’t apply as much as usual here. The story is very much focused on one person, and very little of the outside world filters into her perspective, so this book is overall a special case. However, one of her friends is African-American, while David Petrakis is… okay, Greek, according to Google. However, reading between the lines, he comes from an immigrant family. Again, not the focus of the book, so not much is clear. Just going to give this category a B, to be safe.

Conclusion: 9.8/10

An amazing piece of work that calls out society’s imperfections while also focusing on a single character. This book manages to have a perfect character arc while also having an ending that isn’t perfect (though it is very hopeful and positive). It also shows that we, as individuals, have great personal strength, but we still need others to endure tough times. Lastly, it perfectly balances catharsis and happiness to craft an emotional roller coaster that was all based off of a true story. Read this book. You have no reason not to.