Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrator: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Thirteen-year-old Melinda is starting high school as an outcast. She is bullied and mocked for calling the police at an illicit party thrown by the senior class at the end of summer. Her former friends shun her. Her parents are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and no one seems to notice as she slips further and further away from everything, even herself. At the beginning of the year she draws an assignment for art class as a tree. As she continues to try to better represent the essence of a tree, she studies herself and what happened to her as well. At first she tries to hide what the real reason is for having called the police. It is too hard to face and there isn't anyone she can turn to. She was raped at the party and she was calling the police for help. She must find a voice to protect herself. She can, and she does.
Well-written and well-illustrated, the graphic novel version of this powerful story is an excellent retelling. The way that the story unfolds is realistic and could be disturbing for some readers, but it paints an accurate picture of the self-loathing and other personality changes often experienced by trauma survivors. It also illustrates the pain and isolation that becomes unbearable for this young girl. Her experience follows the seasons and the school year from a kind of death in fall, a winter where she buries herself, and a spring where she begins to re-emerge. She is changed, different, but with the power to move forward and to help both herself and others. Anyone who has experienced trauma in will understand her experience. This is a great book. It is not for every young reader and should be recommended with that caveat in mind.
*Contains mild violence and mild sexual content.