FIERCELY FICTIONAL: Speak Up!

FIERCELY FICTIONAL is all about celebrating fierce, inspiring fictional girls we know you’ll love. To us, “fierce” isn’t just about slaying dragons or solving mysteries. It’s about breaking free from your comfort zone, discovering your confidence, fighting for what you believe in, & discovering your emotional strength. Any girl can shine bright & be fierce, & in this series, we’ll be connecting you with a new fiercely fictional character every month!

FIERCELY FICTIONAL is back and today we’re shining a light on Mia from Speak Up!, a new graphic novel by Rebecca Burgess.

Mia is an autistic middle school girl with a major secret – she’s hiding a secret identity! By day, she’s Mia, the girl at school that not everyone totally understands. She’s kind, creative, and anyone would be lucky to have her as a friend – if they would take the time to get to know her instead of bullying her for being different. Even though she sometimes stims in class and is a little quiet when she’s overstimulated Mia knows that autism is just one small part of who she is, and she wishes her classmates could be more accepting.

Speak Up!:

Book cover for Speak Up! by Rebecca Burgess

For fans of Click and Brave, this touching coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel debut follows an autistic girl who finds friendship where she least expects it and learns to express her true self in a world where everyone defines her by her differences.

Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self. While she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.

Together, they’ve taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.

She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say.

Speak Up!
AUTHOR: Rebecca Burgess
PUBLISHER: Quill Tree Books
DATE: September 13, 2022

When she’s not at school, Mia has an alter-ego. She’s actually the talent behind online superhero popstar Elle-Q! In the comfort of her bedroom, Mia feels free to express herself through singing and songwriting. Her BFF Charlie is the musical genius behind the scenes of it all, putting Mia’s lyrics to beats. When one of their songs goes viral, Charlie is excited by the idea of performing at the local talent show, but Mia isn’t sure she’s ready to take off the mask. Performing live means overcoming her biggest fears, showing her autistic side on stage, and showing everyone – including her bullies – what she has to say!

This sweet story is relatable for anyone who’s ever dealt with peer pressure, overprotective parents, or finding the confidence to be yourself. It’s also an authentic glimpse into what it’s like to be autistic, written by an author who channeled their real experiences with autism into Mia’s character. We love the representation and the way Mia learns to own who she is. Her passion and imagination know no bounds and she shines as she fiercely faces any struggles that come her way.

We asked author Rebecca Burgess to share a little more about Speak Up! and all the reasons Mia is totally fierce so you can get to know her even better before picking up the book!

Five Reasons We Think Mia is Totally Fierce:

Graphic that reads "Super Creative"

She’s creative:

Since Mia is autistic, sometimes she can find it hard to talk, especially if there are a lot of bright lights or loud noises around her. This means that at school, Mia can be really quiet and not express herself, and a lot of her classmates assume Mia doesn’t have any feelings. 

But, Mia finds other ways to express herself outside of talking! She may be quiet on the outside, but on the inside, Mia has a huge imagination. She loves writing poetry and lyrics, making up stories, and dressing up as her alter-ego, Elle-Q. When Mia dresses up as Elle-Q, she loves to sing songs and puts up videos of her music online. Through her online persona, Mia is able to express her feelings that she can’t always express when talking.

Graphic that reads "Authentically Mia"

She’s not afraid to be herself:

Mia can act pretty differently than a lot of other kids. She stims (a kind of fidgeting you do when you’re autistic to help you concentrate) in front of other people. She doesn’t look people in the eye, and wears headphones even when she’s talking to people. She likes to walk around in bare feet and wears scruffy, unusual clothes because they feel comfier than cool-looking clothes. She doesn’t talk to other kids unless they’re interested in the same things as her.

Mia’s Mom is always worried that Mia is going to be really unhappy if she doesn’t try to fit in more with her classmates, so she tries to make Mia hide all of her autistic quirks. But Mia understands that being yourself and being happy is more important than anything else in the world- there’s no point in having a lot of friends if you’re not able to be yourself around them! Mia is perfectly happy having her one close friend, Charlie, who completely accepts her as she is.

Graphic that reads "Focused & Passionate"

She’s passionate:

A lot of people see autism as only being a bad thing for someone, but sometimes it can be really helpful! Mia’s autism means that she can get super focused and passionate about the things she loves. Mia especially loves music and writing, it helps her feel better about all the more scary things going on in her life.

This passion drives Mia to be really good at writing and singing songs, and if it wasn’t for her obsession with music she wouldn’t be the popular online singer that she is.

Graphic that reads "Asks for Help"

She knows when to ask for help:

Mia may be amazing at singing, but because her brain and body is different from most other kids, she sometimes needs the things around her to be changed so that she can be the best she can be. This means that Mia sometimes asks for help, with things like lowering bright lights or asking to wear headphones during conversations.

She knows her own limits and knows when others can help – this isn’t a bad thing! Everyone needs help from others sometimes, and being able to ask others means you can end up being your best self!

Graphic that reads "Braver Than It Seems"

She’s brave:

Mia doesn’t seem brave on the outside – she gets nervous really easily, she worries a lot about new situations and new people, and there are a lot of normal everyday situations that Mia finds way more stressful than other kids seem to. But it is exactly because of this that Mia is really brave!

In spite of feeling like this often, Mia still goes out and faces the world every day, trying new things and becoming a world-famous singer! There’s nothing braver than knowing that you’re scared, but going for it anyway!

If you love amazing reads about inspiring girls, we’ve got the next additions to your bookshelf. Catch up on our FIERCELY FICTIONAL series and get to know even more empowering fictional characters!

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