Review posted February 19, 2011.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2010. 295 pages.
Melody introduces herself by talking about words:
Every word my parents spoke to me or about me I absorbed and kept and remembered. All of them.
I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings.
But only in my head.
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.
Melody has cerebral palsy, a condition that gives her no control over her body.
I can't talk. I can't walk. I can't feed myself or take myself to the bathroom. Big bummer.
My arms and hands are pretty stiff, but I can mash the buttons on the TV remote and move my wheelchair with the help of knobs that I can grab on the wheels. I can't hold a spoon or a pencil without dropping it. And my balance is like zip -- Humpty Dumpty had more control than I do.
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.
Because Melody has no way to express herself except a temper tantrum, the world (except maybe her parents and her kind neighbor) doesn't realize that she's actually brilliantly intelligent. She's put in a class for "special" kids who go over the alphabet over and over again.
But things do start looking up. Her school starts a policy of inclusion. Melody and her classmates get to join a music class, and then others. Maybe she's even making a friend.
But that doesn't come close to what happens when Melody gets a computer -- a computer that can speak for her. At last, she can communicate with the world -- and the world is in for a surprise.
Melody can even try out for the Quiz Team, a team that, if it's good enough, will go to Washington, DC, and be on TV. Maybe her classmates will finally understand her worth.
This book was a good read. I have a friend whose son has cerebral palsy. It took me awhile to understand that the condition did not affect his mind, but only his body. I can only begin to imagine how much frustration that could generate. And this book helped me understand it better.
The author didn't go with the predictable, feel-good ending. Although this was probably much more realistic, I did find myself wishing she had. But Melody is determined and smart, and I'm sure she'll overcome anything further that life throws at her.