Out of My Mind Summary and Study Guide

Sharon Draper

Out of My Mind

  • 54-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 33 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
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Out of My Mind Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 54-page guide for “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 33 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Perseverance and Resiliency, and Prejudice.

Plot Summary

Susan Draper’s Out of My Mind, based in part on her own experiences parenting a disabled child, is told from the first-person perspective of ten-year-old Melody Brooks. Melody seems like a typical fifth-grade girl in the first chapter until it is revealed that despite her intelligence, she is unable to communicate verbally. The struggles and prejudice that Melody encounters on a daily basis provides a more intimate and personal view of the lives of people with physical disabilities.

Melody is highly intelligent, loves words and music, and has many things that she would like to say. But due to her cerebral palsy, she is incapable of speaking and unable to communicate what she feels and thinks in a meaningful way. Melody also has no physical control over her body and is confined to a wheelchair. Her parents are loving and highly supportive of their daughter, but there are times when even they cannot understand what she is trying to tell them.

Asa young girl, Melody is cared for by the next-door neighbor, Mrs. V., who convinces Melody that she can succeed in the world. With her rough-around-the-edges personality and sincere love for Melody, Mrs. V. assists the young girl in learning how to read and communicate with a board full of written words and phrases, to navigate her new computer, and to prepare for the Whiz Kids quiz tournament.

Melody’s parents have a second child, Penny, who is born healthy and whole much to everyone’s relief. Melody is happy to have a sibling although it is difficult to watch her sister grow up being able to walk, talk, and control her movements. Melody finds out that she will be able to attend inclusion classes at school, allowing her to move out of her limited “special needs” class and into more challenging courses in the regular school community.

At school, Melody receives a personal aide named Catherine, and the two become fast friends. Catherine admires Melody’s pluck and bravery; she encourages Melody to become the best she can be and to shut out the naysayers. Catherine helps Melody research talking computers and puts Melody on the path to obtaining a Medi-Talker, allowing her to speak digitally and express her thoughts aloud for the first time.

Melody does so well academically at school that she makes the Whiz Kids quiz team that will compete in a locally televised tournament. While Melody is thrilled to be on the team, it highlights the vast gulf between her and her inclusion classmates. Many of them are cruel or careless to her, and some insult her openly or assume that she is brain damaged as well as physically limited. Others are jealous of her intelligence, while even more are worried about the optics of having Melody on their quiz team. One girl, Rose, becomes tentative friends with Melody, although Melody worries that Rose is only being polite and might decide to stop being friends with her at any point.

The biggest bullies Melody must deal with are Molly and Claire. Claire, in particular, enjoys insulting Melody and mocking her physical jerkiness and verbal screeches. Claire accuses Melody of cheating with her computer to make the quiz team. Unfortunately, Melody receives no help from her history teacher and quiz team moderator, Mr. Dimming. He also believes that she isn’t capable of being on the team until she earns a perfect score on the practice test. Then he includes her on the primary quiz team, while Claire is picked to be an alternate.

Melody leads her team to victory by answering the deciding question correctly in the final round of the tournament. Many reporters want to take her picture and interview her, which she is initially afraid of because of how she looks. The team goes to a celebratory dinner after the event, but Melody loses her appetite when the table becomes uncomfortable because her mom has to spoon feed her dinner. Claire throws up on the floor, yet she isn’t criticized or ostracized by her teammates. Melody wonders why there is a double standard for her.

The next day, when she is featured on the front page of the newspaper, her teammates are sullen and envious. With the help of Catherine and Mrs. V., Melody studies diligently for two weeks before the team prepares to leave for the national tournament in Washington, D.C. When Melody and her family arrive at the airport, they find out their flight is canceled due to weather, and worse, the entire quiz team had gone to breakfast that morning and then taken an earlier flight together. No one bothered to contact Melody’s family to tell them what happened.

The school’s team loses without Melody there to help them. Melody is hurt and angry but insists on going to school, so the students don’t think she’s hiding. Her mother, unwell and irritated, agrees to drive Melody to school. As they back out of the driveway, Melody begins to screech and tries to get her mother’s attention by taking the car keys. Penny has run behind the car, and Melody’s mother backs the vehicle up and hits her. Melody fears that Penny will die from her injuries, or be permanently disabled like her, but Penny recovers.

At school, Melody’s teammates attempt to apologize to her for leaving her behind. They offer her the small, cheap, plastic ninth-place trophy they won, but Melody knocks it to the ground, and it smashes into pieces. She tells the students they deserve the award, then motors her wheelchair out of the classroom.

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Chapters 1-3