Monday, October 25, 2010
Review of Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Draper, Sharon. Out of My Mind. Simon & Schuster, 2010.
In 5th grade, things finally begin to change for Melody. Unable to walk, talk, eat without assistance, or control most of her movements thanks to cerebral palsy, she has been relegated to Special Ed classes for years. However, when she gets to go to music class and begins to meet some other 5th graders, her world begins to open up.
Although no one seems to be able to tell, Melody is really smart. Blessed with an amazing memory and an urge to suck in everything she sees, hears, and reads, all her knowledge and thoughts are just simmering inside of her, yearning to burst out. A special computer that enables Melody to communicate allows her to let her mind off its leash and experience a full gamut of 5th grade experience, including a Whiz Kids competition.
This book is all about the pleasure of listening to Melody's feisty, dry voice as she narrates her tale. The idea of being imprisoned in one's own uncontrollable body, unable to communicate even the simplest ideas, is a horrifying one, and yet Melody manages to portray her life in a matter-of-fact and even humorous manner. Her situation sucks hugely, as she will be the first to admit, but it's what she's always known. And she has what have to be the most awesomely patient and fabulous parents in existence.
Harder to take are the reactions of her classmates to Melody. Even the nice ones would rather not deal with her most of the time, and Melody knows that her occasional involuntary drooling, shrieking, and kicking are all pretty off-putting, not to mention that she can't speak. And yet the person inside is a composed, funny, warm, smart girl. The contrast is so great that even after she can use her computer to compose witty responses, her classmates can't quite believe that Melody isn't stupid. It's horribly frustrating and painful.
Some circumstances seemed a bit contrived - for instance, a dramatic and scary scene involving Melody's sister feels unnecessary, and the obligatory mean girls never rise above stereotypes - but mostly the scenes and characters feel warm and real. Melody may often seem wise beyond her years, but hey, she's had a lot of time to think and observe. And that sassy, eye-rolling humor and her penchant for slang land her back squarely and appropriately in tween territory. Is Melody black? I don't remember if it's ever explicitly stated. Sharon Draper is black, and Melody describes herself and having short, dark, curly hair - but no one's race is mentioned, that I can recall.
The jacket art is crisp and appealing (it reminds me of Cynthia Lord's Rules - must be the fish), the title, with its double meaning, is clever, and the story will grab most 5th graders. Highly recommended for ages 9 to 12.
Posted by Eva M