Melinda has become selectively mute. Because she called the cops on the end-of-summer party right before her freshman year, no one wants anything to do with her. Her old friends abandon her, and it becomes impossible to make new friends. The only girl who will talk to her is Heather, a shallow, perky, brand-new-in-town girl from Ohio. Between silence and missing more than half her classes on a regular basis, Melinda falls into a nasty spiral she can only get out of if she speaks, if she tells someone what happened to her at the party, the reason she called the cops in the first place.
Despite the fact that she doesn’t say much, Melinda was very easy for me to relate to. For entirely different (and not so traumatic) reasons, I also became a selective mute for about 4 years in late elementary and middle school. I know, I know – here I am, telling another personal story, and I don’t mean to dwell on that, but my personal experiences in school made it much, much easier for me to understand where this girl was coming from. I won’t dwell on it too much. Melinda’s silence and isolation were just so real and understandable for me, and her experience with Heather – with Heather’s betrayal – was just another thing I also experienced, which made the whole book more real to me.
With books like this, where I could relate on a personal and shared-experience level, it’s much more difficult for me to try to analyze the way I do other books. It’s hard for me to distance myself from my gut reactions and place the book in context for review format, but I’ll try. The book deals with some very heavy subjects, and I think they’re all approached tactfully and thoroughly. All the students felt real, with all their high school idiocy, while the teachers – through Melinda’s eyes – became stereotypes known by code names such as Hairwoman or Mr. Neck. Everything felt exaggerated and insufficient at the same time, as things often feel in adolescence. I think Anderson captured a disturbed teenage voice very well. There were no parts that felt out of place or unrealistic, and the book became more and more powerful as it went on. I’m really looking forward to reading some of Anderson’s other books.
I know this review isn’t the best. Like I said, without focusing on my own experiences and how they relate to the book, it’s difficult for me to say anything at all, but at the same time, I don’t want to bog this down by talking about my own childhood. I do that too often as it is. This is the sort of book I would love to discuss in a group, and I’m also looking forward to seeing the movie that was based on it.