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Literature / Out of My Mind

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Out of My Mind is a book for younger readers about a young girl with cerebral palsy. It was written by Sharon Draper and first published in 2010.

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but NO ONE knows it.

Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows. But she can’t. She can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice... but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

You can read some of Draper's thoughts on it, as well as an excerpt from the first chapter, on her website here. A sequel, Out of my Heart, was released in November 2021. In May 2022, it was announced that a film adaptation was being developed for Disney+, with Daniel Siepleman writing, Amber Sealey directing and Phoebe-Rae Taylor starring.

Tropes in this novel:

  • Alpha Bitches: Molly and Claire, who delight in making fun of Melody and the rest of the special education H-5 kids.
  • Big Eater: This is mostly Connor's character. Half of his lines have something to do with his love for food (like saying the founder of McDonald's is his "kind of guy", claiming he can eat twelve bowls of spaghetti in one sitting, and asking Mr. Dimming if the class would get pizza after practicing for the competition - on two separate occasions). In fact, he was the one who suggested the class to dine out at Linguini's, an Italian restaurant with all-you-can-eat spaghetti, and he was completely unashamed of it, eating an entire steak and two slices of chocolate cake.
    • His limit is anything healthy, as he seemed somewhat displeased when Mr. Dimming said they would have bagels for breakfast and fruit for snacks during the field trip to Washington D.C.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: This is what Rose turns out to be. She is an organized student who initially came off as very friendly, being the first student to befriend Melody, talk to her, and understand her. Overtime, however, she begins showing her true colors.
    • She seemed embarrassed to be seen with Melody during the trip to the aquarium.
    • She was shocked when Melody made it to the Whiz Kids team.
    • Something Melody, verbatim, says at one point is: "Sure, she’ll stop and chat for a minute or two, but as soon as Janice or Paula calls her to come and look at a picture on a cell phone, Rose will say, “I’ll be right back!” then skip away as if she’s glad she has a reason to cut out on me."
    • When the team took an early flight to Washington D.C., Rose was supposed to call Melody, but then decided not to, leaving her behind.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The quiz team gets sent to state. They go out to breakfast together, purposely leaving Melody behind because they figure she'll slow them down since she cannot feed herself. By the time they've finished breakfast, the team's flight is scheduled to leave early, which means Melody is left behind and does not get to compete. Moreover, her mother accidentally hits her sister with the car, something Melody tried to warn her about but couldn't because she didn't have her Medi-Talk and her mother assumed it was just a tantrum. The thing that stops it from being a straight up Downer Ending is that Penny survives and is expected to make a full recovery, and Melody is able to let go of her hurt after confronting the quiz team (not only did they lose, but an interviewer specifically showed up to talk to her and left after realizing she wasn't there).
  • Blessed with Suck: Melody has an incredible intellect, but she wonders what good that does her when she has no way to express it.
  • Buffy Speak: When Melody is a toddler, her dad brings her home a stuffed animal. Her parents try to see if she will reach for it, and Mom entices her with this line: "Look, Melody, Daddy brought you a play-pretty." As Melody herself says via narration, what the heck is that?
  • Camping Episode: The sequel Out of My Heart is focused on Melody going to a special camp for disabled kids like her.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Gross, the first special ed teacher who Melody said was "really great," partially because he encouraged Willy's love of baseball and tried hard to help Jill, whose body is naturally uncooperative, participate in activities. There was also a teacher Melody thought was cool because she let the kids listen to books on tape and experiment with music, art, and real educational tools.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Everyone in Melody's life, with the exception of Ms. V, seems to think this to some degree until Melody gets Elvira, her technological speaking device.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Math is Melody's one weakness, though it is justified as her being good with pictures and words... not numbers. She is able to do math by creating pictures in her head.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Because of the severity of her physical disability, many people believe Melody doesn't have preferences, or that she won't care that you don't know them. Some also take the limited expressions of emotions that she can manage, like screaming, as anger or noncompliance. They are shocked, then, to learn that Melody loves caramel-based desserts or candy and lemonade, her favorite music is country, and that she wants to dress in "cool clothes" like her classmates.
    • Actually, all the kids in H-5 have these, as Melody explains. For example, Maria has Down's Syndrome and "has trouble figuring out complicated stuff," but has high emotional and interpersonal intelligence. She also adores holidays. Willy has severe verbal tics, but loves baseball and knows all kinds of baseball stats and facts. Gloria has autism and is mostly silent, but loves music.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The last pages of the book reveal the novel is actually Melody’s autobiography.
  • Mama Bear: Do NOT mess with Melody around her mother. She takes this so far as to snap a special ed teacher's nursery rhyme CD in half (see below) and read Melody's quiz team coach the riot act for leaving her out of the state competition.
    • Mrs. V shows shades of this at the aquarium.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: One of the special education teachers, who "teaches" the kids the same things over and over, plays a nursery rhyme CD ad nauseam, and took six months to move from A to B in the alphabet, because she thought the kids didn't understand what an A was or sounded like. This could also count as Stern Teacher, since this woman truly believes kids in special ed cannot learn, and is very vocal about it.
    • Melody has had another teacher, Ms. Hyatt, who did teach kindergarten to the H-5 kids, but maintains a squeaky, simpering voice and attitude that is far below what most kindergartners would put up with for more than two minutes, let alone older kids.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Melody references making "[her] handicapped face"—as in, assuming a flat, playing-dumb expression—around the doctor her mom took her to, and around anyone who she knows already thinks she's stupid.
  • Precious Puppies: Melody was just ecstatic to get little Butterscotch for her birthday.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times:
    • Melody has seen The Wizard of Oz so many times she can quote it.
    • She can also do the same thing with The Lion King (1994). Although, in this case, it's not because she's a big fan of the movie. Room H-5 just plays it all the time.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Melody's favorite candy is butterscotch caramels, which provide the namesake for her dog. She also says she likes any sweets with caramel in them.
  • What If the Baby Is Like Me: A rare variation where the person worrying about this isn’t the parent. When Melody learns her mother is pregnant, her first question is if the baby will also be disabled. Despite there being no real evidence that her mother is more likely to produce a disabled baby, both Melody and her parents worry about that until the baby is born. The baby was completely fine.