out of my mind
By Sharon M. Draper
Atheneum Books, 2010
out of my mind is another of the popular kids-with-disabilities genre that is flooding the children's/young adult markets these days. It is a good one (and a popular one), although perhaps not as realistic as Wonder or Mockingbird.
Melody is smart -- very smart. No one knows this though, as she is trapped in her own mind. She was born with cerebral palsy, and she can't walk (or even sit up on her own), talk, write, or do much of anything else. Her mom and dad know that she's not as dumb as her school and the doctors think she is, but even they don't get how smart she really is.
This changes one day when a teacher aide, at Melody's request, looks up speech generating devices on-line. For those not in the know, these are touch-screen computers that have an array of icons, generally customizable, each icon corresponding to a word, phrase, sentence, or screed. Practiced users can communicate pretty much anything they want, given time and practice. Melody, having plenty to say and a near-photographic memory, masters the device quickly.
Unfortunately, she finds that being able to talk is only half the battle. All the kids at school are so used to thinking of her as non-verbal and low-functioning that they can't accept her as one of them... and the fact that she still can't walk or feed herself doesn't help. Nor does the fact that she's smarter than many of them, and not afraid to show it.
While this type of novel often attempts to give a realistic view of children with special needs, out of my mind is obviously going in a different direction. Melody has special needs, but she is smarter and more motivated than most of us -- and by a significant factor. This is not a bad thing, and of course, there are people like this (after all, Melody's hero is Stephan Hawking), but most of us will never meet someone like Melody.
That aside, this is a good story, with strong characters and a voice that makes a fairly mundane setting engaging. It is fairly fast-moving, and is an easy read, appropriate for kids about 9-15, although it may certainly be enjoyed by those outside this age range.
Accelerated reader level 4.3