Out of My Mind
by Sharon M. Draper
295 pages of courage, determination, love and cruelty
This book has been in my “to-be-read” pile for a couple of years. Friends had recommended it and the reviews had been great – but new fantasies and series kept coming out and it got lower in the stack. I never got around to reading it until two weeks ago when daughter asked me for a book that was like A Mango Shaped Space. I said I wasn’t sure but maybe this and handed her Out of My Mind. Two days later when I got up the book was sitting in the middle of my desk labeled with a post-it saying “AWESOME!” I began reading the next and the post-it is right.
In the book Melody has CP. She can’t talk. She can’t sit up. She can’t feed herself or use the toilet on her own, but she has words – millions of them. Though she has millions of words, she has never said one. They’re all trapped inside. Because of how she controls her body most people assume she has no intelligence. She’s in the resource room with a whole assortment of disabled kids. It’s sort of like a holding tank where the teachers do things, but no one is really teaching, and no one is learning anything intentionally. That changes in 5th grade.
In 5th grade Melody gets a medi-talker – a device like Stephen Hawking has that allows her to type her thoughts so the machine can speak them for her. She has a one-on-one assistant who believes in her and she participates in, and wins a spot on the Whiz Kid Team. For the first time in her life people outside her family know she is smart. For the first time in her life Melody is part of a team – but she still can’t drink or control her limbs when excited or wipe her mouth if she drools. That makes others uncomfortable and so “the morning that started out like crystal turns to broken glass.” You’ll never believe what happens possibly could – but it does.
I was so angry at so many of the people in this book. They behave as no one should and yet I know their behavior mirrors real life. I know it is easy to criticize others, and much more difficult to take action to do the right thing. But we must! This book makes you think about what it means to be a person – a quality person. It shows that flaws don’t lessen or leave with age and it shows that our beliefs are powerful things.
It is easy when it is easy, but what do you do when it is hard? What do you do when it seem unbearable? What do you believe to be right? Will you act on your convictions? It is so hard to do… I think Melody in Out of My Mind has a lot to tell you – she taught me a great deal. I will be a much more careful teacher, friend and person because of her.
Leave a comment to let us know how she touches your life too.