Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper 2010
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
IQ "Fifth grade is probably pretty rocky for lots of kids. Homework/ Never being quite sure if you're cool enough. [...] I guess I have all that, plus about a million different layers of other stuff to deal with. Making people understand what I want. Worrying about what I look like. Fitting in. Will a boy ever like me? Maybe I'm not so different from everyone else after all. It's like somebody gave me a puzzle, but I don't have the box with the picture on it. So I don't know what the final thing is supposed to look like. I'm not even sure if I have all the pieces. That's probably not a good comparison, since I couldn't put a puzzle together if I wanted to." Melody pgs. 293-294
Melody is 11 years old, in 5th grade, and has both a photographic memory and cerebral palsy. Melody has a very advanced/severe case of cerebral palsy in which she can't speak and can barely move. She sits in a wheelchair and must be fed, bathed, taken to the bathroom and assisted with putting on her clothes. Melody is most likely the smartest kid in her school but no one knows it, many teachers don't think she's capable of learning and neither do doctors. She spends her days in classes with other children who have special needs learning preschool-level lessons, and it's driving her crazy. All Melody wants is to be able to speak, to tell her parents that she loves them and ask to be put in classes with children her age, on her intellectual level (or close to it because Melody is freakin brilliant). One day Melody learns that there may be something that will give her a voice, the problem is not everyone is ready to hear her.
I loved every page of this book and I cried through most of it because I could not fathom how cruel Melody's classmates were. I can't imagine being so mean to someone with special needs, especially not in fifth grade. It's like that expression about picking on someone your own size. I think it's fine to tease kids with special needs as long as they know you ARE KIDDING because kids do tease each other, but that's something friends do. Friends don't make fun of other friends' disabilities. What is that? Oh man I was so so angry while reading this book (it was a mix between tears of anger and tears of sadness). I didn't feel pity for Melody but I was enraged on her behalf. Melody has a wonderful voice, sometimes she's plagued by self-doubt (who isn't?), other times she is confident and she tells it like it is, not really worried about sparing people's feelings. Plus she has a wry sense of humor and she says things that made me crack a smile but I bet my eyes remained sad (if that makes. Basically the jokes were funny but what prompted the jokes wasn't funny). She has spunk, in fact I think she is the epitome of spunky. "When people look at me, I guess they see a girl with short, dark, curly hair strapped into a pink wheelchair. By the way, there is nothing cute about a pink wheelchair. Pink doesn't change a thing" (pg.3).
One of the most powerful moments in the book is when it hits Melody that children around the world have CP. "I stop for a minute and stare at the board. It has never occurred to me that there are kids like me in Germany and China and France who need a machine to help them talk" (pg. 137), how many of us consider that children/people around the world suffer from the same diseases/disabilities we do in the U.S. and many of them probably receive even less help? There were some inconsistencies in the book, for example the character of Rose was simply bizarre. One minute she was cool, the next I wanted to shout at her. I still don't fully understand her character, the other characters were one-dimensional except for Melody's family and Mrs. V. I never really understood how tough it is to care for someone with a disability but after reading this book I have a better idea and appreciation for the work of caregivers. Mrs. V was unimaginably sweet and my heart was warmed knowing that there really are people like her, only a few, but they exist. Melody's parents were wonderfully genuine, they adored Melody but Melody also witnessed the strain caring for her caused them. Especially once her mother had another child, the author acutely describes the loneliness and even resentment Melody feels as well as the guilt for not being able to do basic tasks for herself. Her parents argue fiercely but not all the time and they always make-up, they frustrate Melody and each other but that's realistic.
Out of My Mind left me a bit like Melody, speechless. The only difference being that I had tears running down my cheeks and Melody rarely cries. I admit I overlooked the one-dimensional characters and rather confusing ending along with the choppy pace because the emotional factor was so high. This book left me feeling drained and absolutely terrified (and in awe) of how cruel children can act. I honestly can't imagine anyone in my sixth grade class making fun of a kid with cerebral palsy (but I could see a kid in my fifth grade class doing that which is upsetting). Melody is one of the best main characters I've come across in a while (especially in middle grade) and even though she's fictional, I want her to succeed in life. Shoot, I could read a whole series of books about her. I was hesitant to read this book right away because I knew it would make me cry. I was right but it's the best kind of cry, and this is a great book. A book that leaves you with a deeper sense of comprehension and compassion.
Disclosure: Received this book about a year ago from Lyn. Thank you and I'm sorry I just now reviewed it!