Out of My Mind
by Sharon M. Draper
Oh, my GOD, that is not how ed psych assessment or brains work. IT ISN'T. I might be bucking the crowd on this one. I didn't like it. On the surface, this should be a book that I went bananas over. Middle-Level disability rep with a POC main character written by a parent of a child with CP? Why yes, I will throw money at that. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me. I am probably going to shout some more. I have strong feelings about this.
The premise of this book reminded me of Stuck in Neutral but without the creepy as hell killer dad angle. I love the idea that we never really know what someone else understands or is experiencing. Whatever a person's difficulties we should never assume that we know their inner self. The same goes for people who seem to have it all. Famous? Beautiful? Athletic? Rich? That outside facade tells us nothing about who they really are.
Melody as a character didn't have a lot of depth. She was snide about almost everyone and everything. I think that this was meant to convey sassiness and make her seem like an "ordinary" child. It ended up making her seem mean-spirited. The challenge of this character was making her frustration real to the reader. Melody has every right to be angry when she needs to be the reader is just never allowed close enough to her to relate fully.
Why are the educational psychologists and special education teachers the enemy and the TA's aren't? Petty quibble: What teacher wears a red business suit? Or a business suit? In particular, a teacher who is working with children's who need to help with all of their physical needs. Pardon me while I side eye this book. Honestly almost every situation that Melody finds herself in at school is a massive lawsuit waiting to happen. Like massive amounts of people getting fired scorched earth policy lawsuits. There is so much law minutia surrounding special education.
What is described in the book is almost a caricature of special education 40 years ago. And the feeling of the book feels like that period as well. But then she starts talking about cells phones and MySpace (which, was already dated by the time this book was published) and you get that is supposed to be now. Or at least in the last ten years. I am confused and angered.
Why does Melody not use her communication board (which has the alphabet on it) to communicate her need to better communication tools? Where is the Speech Language Pathologist? Why is the bullying tolerated? What sort of a moron of a teacher lets that go on. And worse passive aggressively participate in it? First, duty of care and all that. Second, that is a pretty surefire way to get fired.
Melody is profoundly physically disabled and to the outside world mentally disabled. She should have been getting intervention since birth. Her first assessment was at 5? I don't think so. She would have passed from early infant learning to the school districts umbrella at age 3. There is also this unspoken understanding that Melody is "more" because of her intelligence. What if she really was functioning at the level that she was diagnosed at? The book seems to imply that she would be less of a person.
I hate when I write a review like this. As if the book is trash and there is nothing decent in it. Here is the thing that makes me so frustrated. This could have been an outstanding book. I feel as if Sharon M. Draper needed a better editor to help her reign in the crazy shift in tense and to get in some more character development. The writing itself has a great deal of potential, and I WANT this story told. I appreciate the author's rather acidic sense of humor and I would fall for the premise of this book again. This story deserves better.
All in all? No. With a side of mad.
Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom - the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she's determined to let everyone know it - somehow.
In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.