Review of Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Mind

by Sharon M. Draper

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.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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