Wow. Just wow.
This book has guts. Susan M. Draper is a courageous author to have stepped into the mind, body, and soul of a physically handicapped girl. Out of My Mind is a masterpiece of so many things ... reality, acceptance, perseverance, power, understanding, respect, and love. And all of these concepts are addressed so eloquently with the young adult in mind. Draper does a remarkable job drawing young readers into a world which they are most likely unaware yet leaves them feeling grateful and perhaps better for the experience.
Cognitively speaking, Melody is pretty much just like any other 11-year-old girl. She loves cool clothes. Purple is her favorite color. You can find her jamming out to music, especially country tunes, her favorite. Melody loves to watch The Wizard of Oz and snuggle up with her precious pooch, Butterscotch. Similar to her peers, she gets annoyed with her younger sibling, she worries about what others think of her, and she most desperately wants to be included and accepted. The only difference for Melody is that nobody knows any of these things about her. Melody has never been able to share herself with others because she can't speak. Melody has cerebral palsy.
Melody is an intelligent, witty, thoughtful soul trapped inside a body that doesn't work. Succumbed to her wheelchair, almost every choice regarding her life is made by another person. Her day-to-day existence is a guessing game for all who care for her and she's forced to live by what others think she wants, needs, and loves. That is until the day she receives the best gift of her life: a Medi-Talker. A Medi-Talker is the high-tech computer that allows Melody to express herself by typing in words, phrases, and even whole sentences and hearing the digital voice speak for her. It's amazing and it changes Melody's life in more ways than one.
With her new freedom to interact with the world around her, Melody can't leave her special ed classroom fast enough. The best part of her day is when she's able to escape the mundane routines of her specialized curriculum and join the exciting world of a general ed 5th Grade class. This is where she feels she truly belongs but it takes a lot of work to convince others of her intelligence and worth as a student.
With much dedication, perseverance, and the love and support of the most wonderful neighbor and caregiver, Mrs. V (who is also the most powerful character in the novel), Melody blows everyone away by making it onto her school's coveted Quiz Team. The opportunity undoubtedly opens up a whole new and exciting world for Melody but also forces her to come face to face with the harsh realities of being "different."
I loved Out of My Mind for its realness. Draper does not paint a silver lining around every event that unfolds in Melody's life and I appreciated that. I instantly fell in love with Melody's character and the fact that she had to face multiple challenges head-on made me love her even more. For some reason I have been craving these types of stories. The underdogs. The obstacles. The not-so-perfect endings. The life lessons. I'm so proud of the quality literature that today's youth is privy to. Bless Draper and all the other authors who have the guts and compassion to write stories that really matter.
Recommended Age: 10 & Up
Quality Rating (out of 5 stars):
In other news...
If you get the chance and need a small chuckle, read my latest Facebook post about recently getting locked out of the library. You can also take a peek at my newest library checkouts for both myself and my lil' bean. I'd love to hear what you've checked out lately as well!