I remember when I first saw Sharon M. Draper’s novel, Out Of My Mind. It was at a Scholastic book fair my college, Rowan University, was holding to benefit the Students For Literacy club. I was drawn to the simple, yet intriguing cover which was blue and featured a goldfish in a small bowl. I then proceeded to read the back cover and was interested in how the author described her main character as having a “photographic memory”. The back cover mentioned that this character was currently unable to walk to speak, but never once said that she had cerebral palsy, a condition that I had no previous knowledge of.
Image Credits: Novel Novice
Sharon M. Draper’s Out Of My Mind painted a vivid picture of just what it’s like to be 11 years old and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Main character Melody’s classmates want nothing to do with her. She have SO much to say, but no way to say it. She is mute, and for awhile, that means silenced.
Until she received the MediTalker, a device that allows her to type up the things she wants to say on a computer. It’s a lot like Stephen Hawking and the computer he uses to communicate with. What’s more, Melody can prove her intelligence, which may or may not be the equivalent of Stephen Hawking’s in the future, for the first time ever. She does so through not only trying out for, but scoring the highest for the school’s Whiz Kids team.
Image Credits: CPCenter.org
However,Melody has a long way to go before reaching the same level of praise, respect, and acclaim of the talented Mr. Hawking. Despite her proven intelligence, Melody’s classmates still see her as “weird” for her condition. Some such as the novel’s antagonist, Claire, even show a hint of jealousy Then there are characters like Rose that are torn between being a good friend to Melody or looking cool in front of the more popular crowd (e.g.-Claire).
Image Credits: TheVerge.com
When the Whiz Kids have their flight for the next, big round of their competition changed at the last minute, it is Rose who is put in charge of notifying Melody. The other children persuade her not to call, telling her how weird Melody would make them look on television and reminding her of the alternatives they can use for the team. This breaks Melody’s heart.
But it does not break Melody. Melody has a strength within her that can prevail even the cruelest comments and actions from her classmates. She is determined to shine on her own and show her classmates that she can do fine on her own, even without them. She is also quick to remind them that without her, they are nothing, which is why they only placed 9th in the compeition, receiving a tiny trophy which Melody can easily break with her hands, despite the immobility her disease causes her.
Out Of My Mind was an extremely inspiring book that makes readers think twice about their own lives and how fortunate they may be. I am a hearing impaired adult (legally classified as deaf, as I have a 90 dB hearing loss). I always thought I had things difficult because I can’t hear well and people don’t always understand or accept my hearing loss, but that is nothing compared to the challenges Melody faces.
Melody cannot walk. She will never play the sports I enjoyed playing as a child. Melody can not use her voice to communicate. When she wants to say something she has to think of just the right words and hope it comes out right. This is time consuming and can be frustrating. How does a child with cerebral palsy use sarcasm? Most people would think everything they said was true or serious.
I’m also more thankful for the little things in life. I used to enjoy eating at the diner with my friends or after big events to celebrate. Melody could do that, but with assistance. She had to be fed like a baby. This was awkward and embarrassing for her and she felt uncomfortable doing it in front of her classmates. What should have been a fun experience for her turned into a struggle, and sometimes embarrassing experience.
I think the number one thing I’m the most thankful for though is my privacy. I can get up and do things whenever I want to without having a pair of eyes on me at all times. Melody didn’t even have privacy when she had to use the bathroom — even something like that required a great deal of help and assistance.
I am thankful for Sharon M. Draper’s novel. She has invited me into the world of cerebral palsy and created such a strong, unique character that despite her differences, I was able to connect to in a way that felt like I was making a new friend. I am more appreciative of my life after reading how hard Melody’s life is. When a book inspires you as much as Out Of My Mind did for me, you know it’s well written. Five out of five stars for Out Of My Mind. I look forward to reading and reviewing more of Draper’s works in the future.