Book of the Week - Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. She is the smartest kid in her whole school-and no one knows it. Most people think she is stupid, barely able to understand more than the alphabet and the only reason they believe this is because Melody can't tell them. Stuck in her own head, Melody can neither write, walk, or talk. She hates school because her teachers are idiots who insist she learn her ABC's when she wants to learn long division. Then, one day in class when a student was showing off her new computer, Melody gets an idea. Why couldn't she have a computer too? Soon Melody has a voice, but are the other kids and teachers ready to hear what Melody has to say?

One thing is sure, this is a book full of character voice. Being in Melody's head, we know every one of her dreams and desires. Some of her desires are expected, but not stereotypical in any way. Melody is funny and modern and I felt her frustration at not being able to tell people when she thought they looked nice, or they were bugging her, or when she was upset. Melody is embarrassed by the way she looks: her twisted body that slides out of her wheelchair if she isn't strapped in, the way people look at her when they eat out at restaurants, how much she dislikes her easy to put on but unfashionable clothes, and worst of all how she squeals and squeaks when she is happy. A drawback would be that there was a lot of Melody. The first half of the book is mostly backstory, information, introduction to Melody's world. For me, the story didn't really begin until Melody got her computer, and although I liked all the information about her life, I'm not sure that I needed all of it.

Once Melody did get her computer the story really got rolling. Melody is soon part of a team who will be competing for a Whiz Kid championship that could take them all the way to Washington, D.C. Melody is excited, making friends, and for the first time, seeing what normal feels like. Most interesting was that we see the pain and frustration she still feels. The children still talk about her, a teacher doesn't understand, she is still in a wheelchair, her computer isn't always fast enough to allow her to participate. And the ending. I won't ruin it for you, but it truly is wonderful, sad, frustrating, and empowering.

This book is a great example of a book that really portrayed disability in a positive, empowering, unstereotypical, creative, and fun way. You will never forget Melody. On a teaching level, this book is great for kids in order to help them understand disabilities like cerebral palsy, in all extremes. I do not like books that are "teaching" books and this novel never comes off as such, but I know that young readers will get a lot our of this story. Releasing March 8.