Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper;
Atheneum Books for Young Readers:
New York, 2010; $17.99
Eleven-year-old Melody Brooks is a genius. She remembers everything that has ever happened to her, from the lullabies her parents sang to her as a baby to the words from every documentary and TV show she’s ever watched. Melody’s life is like a movie, and she remembers every bit of it. There is only one problem. Melody can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. Melody Brooks has never taken a single step, spoken a single word, or written a single sentence in her life.
Melody has cerebral palsy, a disability that, as she puts it, “limits her body but not her mind.” Unfortunately, not too many people realize this. Melody is tired of being treated like a baby by her teachers, doctors, and classmates. She wants to do something amazing, like Stephen Hawking. She wants the “normal” kids to notice her and ask her to play, just like everyone else. Most of all, though, Melody just wants to talk. Words have always surrounded her, floating around like a cloud of air, always just out of reach. Her inability to speak is making Melody go out of her mind, and she is intent on finding a way to speak.
Melody’s story got me thinking: What would it be like to never walk, or talk, or write? I could only think of one word to describe this situation: hard. I would never feel the thrills of crossing the finish line at a cross-country meet, or putting pencil to paper and making words come alive when I write. I couldn’t plant a garden in summer, or go sledding in winter, or ride my bike in spring. I couldn’t feel the rushing of water when I dive into a pool, or thank a friend for a birthday gift. Worst of all, though, I could never even know what it was like to experience these things. Yet, somehow, Melody still manages to always have a smile on her face and embrace life the way it is. She does some pretty amazing things too. Melody makes the Whiz Kids team, stands up to bullies, and even saves her baby sister from being fatally injured. All in all, I found Melody to be an incredible person, with an awesome personality to match. Out of My Mind really emphasizes the quote, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” just like you can’t judge a person by the way they look. As Melody puts it, “You have to go beyond the wheelchair, there’s a real person inside.”
Out of My Mind is easily one of my all-time favorite books. I loved everything about it, from the characters to the plot and the setting. I’d recommended it to everybody. Just beware, Out of My Mind is so great, you might not be able to put it down!