Ugh! I keep disappearing for long stretches of time. I really need to get better about that.
Before I came across this book, I assumed that most of Sharon Draper’s books were geared towards the YA crowd. It was a pleasant surprise when I stumbled upon Out Of My Mind in Barnes and Noble. I wanted to read it, but I was a little wary since it was told from the perspective of an eleven year old girl. For some unknown reason, I never gave Middle Grade books a chance. I just always raced to the YA section of any bookstore. So, I set this book down and continued walking around. Weeks later, I found myself in the bookstore (shocker!) and saw this book again. I decided to give it a chance since I adore most of Ms. Draper’s books and I’m really glad that I read it.
Out Of My Mind tells the story of eleven year old Melody Brooks. Melody is intelligent and has a photogenic memory. She knows so many facts and tidbits that it would astonish some of the most brilliant minds. But she struggles to share her brilliance with the world because she has cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, talk, use the restroom on her own or do a lot of things that many people take for granted. She’s trapped inside her mind. Until she receives a special device that helps her finally speak up, though most people assume she has nothing to say.
Draper really eases you into Melody’s situation and her condition. Which is nice because you’re not flailing around in unfamiliar territory. But the pacing is a little slow. In fact, the main drama of the story doesn’t really start until about a third of the way into the book. And Melody doesn’t receive her Medi-Talker (the device that helps her speak) until about halfway through the story. It took me a while to read the book because it moved along so slowly.
I loved Melody and I loved how she really grows and learns to stand up for herself. She doesn’t do it often, which makes it even more rewarding when she finally puts her foot down and demands respect. Also, she has such a loving and wacky support system. There are her parents who love her unconditionally and her younger sister who is just a bundle of joy and sass. Then there’s Catherine, the college student who serves as Melody’s classroom aide. And finally Mrs.Valencia who believes in Melody the entire time and who pushes Melody to her limits. I loved the people who stood in Melody’s corner because she really needed a loving support system.
I was a little disappointed in the other characters. I understand that the kids in the school were trying to understand Melody in their own way and some of the children seemed to have good hearts, though, of course, they fell short of being perfect. But by the end of the story, it felt like none of the secondary characters grew. Like Rose, one of Melody’s classmates. Rose was a wishy-washy friend. She would talk to Melody, though you could tell she was a little uncomfortable, but at least she made an effort. I kept waiting for Rose to realize how her fickle ways were hurting Melody and eventually the two would become really good friends. That never happened. And that played a huge role in why I was disappointed with the ending. Of course, I didn’t expect every single child to have a change of heart. But I think Rose should have been the one child who did grow and realize how horrible she was in the beginning.
Honestly, the ending fell flat for me because it felt like none of the characters grew. Melody changed a little. She learned that she didn’t need the approval of her classmates and that’s definitely an important lesson to learn. But her desire to be seen as an equal was never really presented as a problem until about halfway through the story. And the rest of the characters all stayed the same. Actually, half of the characters stayed the same and the other half seemed to regress.
I liked this book. It was fun to get inside Melody’s head and read her thoughts. But the story started off too slow for my liking. And the characters all felt one dimensional. I’m sure kids could learn some important lessons about treating everyone with respect. But I also think there are other books that get that point across.