Monday, November 18, 2013

Book review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Title: Out of My Mind
Author: Sharon Draper
Genre: MG Contemporary
Pages: 320
Publication date: 2010
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

My rating: 3 spitwads / 5

Every six weeks, my report card was peppered with little red checks. Our school printed these checklists where teachers could mark down areas where students needed to improve. And my teachers marked. Heavens to Murgatroyd did they mark.

A lot.

But it was almost always in the same area. Which, as a kid, I thought was sort of ideal. The other columns – you know, the ones that had to do with me turning in my work or keeping my hands to myself or not eating all the glue in the craft basket – stayed pretty pristine.

The part of my report card that looked like it was about to keel over from a massive head wound was the one column that said Keeps quiet in class.

I probably would've given Kindergarten Cop a tumor.

This isn't something eleven-year-old Melody Brooks has a problem with in Out of My MindWell, not at first. Melody has cerebral palsy and every piece of gossip she'd like to share, every answer she'd like to call out, every insult she'd like to yell is stuck in her head along with every experience, fact, name, and number she's ever heard. 

You see, Melody remembers everything. But she can't show anyone how smart she is because it's all trapped inside her mind with the one thing she wants more than anything...

A voice.

When Melody receives a brand new Medi-Talker for Christmas, others begin to quickly realize that she wants to be heard. And she's got a lot to say. She tries out for the 5th grade Whiz Kids Competition, nailing a perfect score during the practice round. But even with her beating the other 5th graders time and time again, they still have a hard time accepting her as a potential teammate. 

Eat your heart out, Hawking.

This is where I fell in love with the story. Melody is never painted as this poor widdle me kid. She's a fighter. And no matter what crap her classmates give her about the Medi-Talker, her inability to eat on her own, the way her muscles spasm every now and then, she never backs down.

But somewhere during the story, my rose-colored reading glasses fell off. And It broke my heart because Melody's story was one I wanted to root for til the end. 

So the good news?

Melody stayed as awesome as ever. She never let me down. Not for one minute did I feel less connected with her and the journey she'd adopted to become a fully-included student.

The bad news?

It was just about everything else that ripped the warm and fuzzy from my guts. Nearly every supporting character refused to grow. Even a lot of the adults in the story. Now I'm not saying that every character has to grow in a book, but when you've got a character like Melody surrounded by her supposed-to-be support team and they do everything but support her, it becomes almost enough to make me want to pitch a mega-fit.

This is the mild version.

I know Draper wanted to show us how gaining acceptance is hard and how there are some people who refuse to ever change, but it bordered on totally unrealistic at times. I'm talking congratulations-you-just-got-your-school-sued-enjoy-your-spotlight-on-20/20 level of unrealistic.

I can forgive writing the 5th graders as a bunch of stubborn little turds (although I've taught 4th and 5th grade for years and have never witnessed that level of douchebaggery), but I just can't buy the teacher allowing a student like Melody to get made fun of, forgotten, and practically neglected. 

Okay. End rant.

Moving on.

I still enjoyed the book. And I'm still going to give it 3 spitwads out of 5 because I'm sort of Melody's biggest fan. Her story deserves to be told, read, understood, and recommended. So get out there and check it out. If you can look past the oftentimes facepalmingly unrealistic attitudes and actions of people who should be championing the strides this little girl takes on every page, then you'll enjoy it.

And if you can't?

You've been warned, window. You've been warned.

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