Burgess, Rebecca

Speak Up!

(2) 4-6 Mia, the twelve-year-old protagonist of this accessible graphic novel, keeps to herself in school and is bullied over her autism. But she shines as Elle-Q, an alter ego known only to her friend Charlie, with whom she makes music videos that have gained an online following. Laura, who's among the class bullies at first, is a huge Elle-Q fan, and a friendship gradually develops between her and Mia over what's ostensibly just a shared fandom. (Though the girls take some time to figure this out, they both have secret online identities.) Pressure from Charlie to make the act more public than Mia feels ready for complicates matters and adds to her sense of being overwhelmed. Mia's increasing eagerness to be--and to advocate for--herself is encouraging, as is the casual diversity among the other characters (light-skinned Mia's classmates have a variety of skin tones; Charlie is dark-skinned and nonbinary). Varied page layouts in the digital illustrations hold interest, with panel boundaries especially breaking at moments of strong emotion--and when Mia feels free as Elle-Q.


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