Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Title: Out of My Mind (GoodReads)
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Page Count: 295
Genre: YA Contemporary
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, because Melody 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.
This was a hard book to read, but it’s a book I’m very glad I read. Melody is one of the most interesting narrators I’ve ever read, and this book forced me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about children with special needs. It made me stop and think about all the times, as a school photographer, that I spoke to the teacher about the student and not to the actual student. I just assumed that if the student couldn’t talk to me and didn’t seem to respond that it couldn’t understand me at all and why bother speaking directly to that child?
I haven’t done this to be mean. I just think the alternative – what Melody has to deal with – is just too sad to think about. Imagine being the smartest person in your class but having everyone think you’re stupid because you can’t talk. Imagine throwing a fit because that’s all you’re physically able to do but have no one understand you. Imagine getting yelled at because your parents can’t understand that you’re not screaming to be annoying, you’re screaming to get their attention. Imagine being taught the alphabet over and over and over again because your teacher doesn’t even believe you can do anything else.
This was a very informative book, but it was also a heartbreaking one. It looks at the difficulties of being and raising a child with special needs. It’s inspiring but also realistic. It shows what these students are capable of while still being realistic. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to put themselves in someone else’s shoes for a while and learn both to be grateful for what they have and to be a better human being to everyone else around you.