Speak

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Melinda Sordino Character Analysis

The protagonist of Speak, Melinda begins high school (and the novel) traumatized by a rape that occurred at the hands of upperclassman Andy Evans at a party the summer before. She has not told anyone about the rape, however, and her classmates loathe her for calling the police on the party, while her parents and teachers are disappointed and angered by her sudden depression and apathy. She is smart, but refuses to do her homework, or go to class. She displays aptitude for basketball and tennis, yet refuses to make any effort to follow through on her skills. Terrified of opening up to anyone, or of growing up in any real way, Melinda must learn over the course of the novel to overcome her trauma and to find her own voice. Her inability to tell anyone about her rape manifests itself in an inability to speak at all, but creating art, gaining independence, and standing up to the bullies in her life helps her to regain the ability to articulate herself once again. While she is silent and cold on the outside, Melinda has a rich interior life. She is funny and perceptive, and has the ability to be both cynical and empathetic towards both her peers and the authority figures in her life. By the novel’s end, Melinda has begun to come out of her shell, opening up to her art teacher and to her former friend, Ivy. Her growth reaches its peak when she fights off Andy Evans as he attempts to rape her a second time, and subsequently finishes the drawing of a tree that she has been working on all year. She has regained both her voice and her autonomy, and is finally able to move forward with her life.

Melinda Sordino Quotes in Speak

The Speak quotes below are all either spoken by Melinda Sordino or refer to Melinda Sordino. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar Strauss Giroux edition of Speak published in 2011.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with. I am Outcast.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

As Melinda begins her freshman year of high school, she reacts to her new environment with pessimism and dread. On one level, this quote reflects how sorely Melinda sticks out within the conformist world of Merryweather High. On a deeper level, Melinda's repetitive description of herself as "wrong" gives readers a sense of her deep self-hatred, and her lack of comfort within her own skin. By criticizing her own appearance, Melinda is unknowingly revealing the reality of her emotional state. Despite claiming frequently that she doesn't care what others think, Melinda's description of herself as an "Outcast" reveals that she is in fact thinking of herself in the way that others see her. Although she may pretend that her isolation doesn't bother her, Melinda is in fact acutely sensitive to her peers' opinions of her; in an effort to ignore their rejection and cruelty, she judges herself as harshly as possible. 

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Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in fifth grade.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Bedroom
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

As she introduces readers to her childlike bedroom, Melinda reveals both her distance from her past self, and her longing for a time of innocence (fifth grade). By calling herself an "alien," Melinda makes clear that she no longer feels like the same person she was at age eleven. This would make sense for any adolescent, but for Melinda, it is especially and painfully true, considering the act of violence and violation that prematurely forced her into adulthood. 

At the same time, Melinda clearly misses the girl she was in fifth grade. The room is a "postcard," a message written by someone you miss and wish to see. Every time that she steps into her room, Melinda is reminded of the innocence that she has lost, and the child that she used to be. She is also reminded that appearance and reality are not the same thing—that no matter how childlike her room is, she herself is no longer a child, and never will be again. 

I look for shapes in my face. Could I put a face in my tree, like a dryad from Greek mythology? Two muddy-circle eyes under black-dash eyebrows, piggy-nose nostrils, and a chewed-up horror of a mouth. Definitely not a dryad face. I can’t stop biting my lips. It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don’t even know.
I get out of bed and take down the mirror. I put it in the back of my closet, facing the wall.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Mirrors, Lips, Blood
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

While contemplating herself in the mirror of her bedroom, Melinda feels a surge of loathing. The protagonist often comments negatively about her own appearance, but this quote is one of the most vivid examples of her deep self-hatred. Melinda has essentially internalized all of the hatred and harm that she receives from her peers, and is projecting it back onto herself. In fact, in biting her lips until they bleed, Melinda has actually begun to self-harm, physically punishing herself both for her traumatic past and her current isolation, even though she is blameless in regards to both. The fact that she "can't stop" biting her lips only further emphasizes her feelings of powerlessness, illustrating for readers how out-of-control she feels, even within her own body. 

Throughout the book, Melinda will associate herself closely with trees. Here, though, she doesn't think that she is good enough to be a tree nymph, a "dryad," thus cutting herself off from the healing and rebirth that trees symbolize within the novel. 

Last, Melinda's admission that she "doesn't even know" her own reflection, and her decision to hide her mirror, illustrate how far Melinda is alienated from her own appearance. Inside, she is traumatized and wounded; her appearance, however, does not display those truths. Unable to verbally communicate her true internal state, Melinda hates her body for not expressing that state physically. 

Part 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

I used to be like Heather. Have I changed that much in two months? She is happy, driven, aerobically fit. She has a nice mom and an awesome television. But she’s like a dog that keeps jumping into your lap. She always walks with me down the halls chattering a million miles a minute.
My goal is to go home and take a nap.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

While spending time at Heather's house, Melinda reflects on the other girl's shallow, vapid personality. This quote highlights the importance of Heather as a character within the novel. Not only does Heather force Melinda to actually interact with someone throughout the narrative, but she also represents both Melinda's past self and her current disillusionment. Like it or not, Heather reminds Melinda of the innocent, enthusiastic person she used to be.

Rather than increasing Melinda's positive feelings towards Heather, however, this association only makes the protagonist feel more annoyed and hostile towards her semi-friend. She sees her old self as vapid, naive, and idiotic, and attributes all those traits to Heather as well.

Beneath this anger, however, is a deep sense of sadness, pain, and envy. As we often see within the book, Melinda longs for the person she used to be, her anger at her past self masking how much she misses her lost innocence. This mix of emotions makes her feelings towards Heather extraordinarily complex, but also helps to explain why she spends so much time with the other girl. 

Part 1, Chapter 12 Quotes

The cheerleaders cartwheel into the gym and bellow. The crow stomps the bleachers and roars back. I put my head in my hands and scream to let out the animal noise and some of that night. No one hears. They are all quite spirited.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

As a pep rally rages around her, Melinda experiences a moment of raw anguish and isolation. This passage puts Melinda directly in contrast with the other students at her school. While they scream with school spirit and enthusiasm, she screams out of frustration and anguish. A non-conformist in the middle of a mob, it is easy to see why Melinda feels so out of place when she is around her fellow students. Traumatized and alone, she experiences something that should be fun—a pep rally—as a deeply threatening and hostile environment. 

Importantly, Melinda's actions here also help us to understand her complicated relationship with speech and silence. Clearly, Melinda is in deep and constant pain; she is so lonely and damaged, however, that she is unable to express this pain to anyone. The chaos of the pep rally gives her the opportunity to voice her anguish without anyone hearing.

The phrase "some of that night" is particularly important, as it is a subtle reference to the night when Melinda was raped. She carries this experience around with her always, but has been unable to share that burden with anyone around her. Although screaming may provide a temporary outlet for her suffering, Melinda remains unable to escape the memory and trauma related to her assault, or to truly communicate her feelings about it. 

Part 1, Chapter 21 Quotes

I hide in the bathroom until I know Heather’s bus has left. The salt in my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face in the sink until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather
Related Symbols: Mirrors, Lips, Water, Ice, and Melting
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

After a humiliating encounter with Heather and the Marthas, Melinda's moment of anguish in front of the mirror perfectly encapsulates her self-hatred and deep depression. Melinda loathes herself so much that pain—the salt of her tears on her raw lips—feels good to her. Her assault, and her subsequent isolation by her peers, has left Melinda feeling worthless and invisible. She wishes to erase her face so that her appearance will match her internal devaluation—she will be a "nothing" inside and out. 

It is vital, too, that Melinda repeatedly washes her face in a clear effort to cleanse herself. She continues to feel guilt about her rape (a common sentiment for victims of sexual assault), and wishes to cleanse herself of those feelings. The novel often uses water to symbolize cleansing and rebirth, but here, Melinda wishes to use the restorative powers of water in order to completely erase herself. 

Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

It is getting harder to talk. My throat is always sore, my lips raw. When I wake up in the morning, my jaws are clenched so tight I have a headache. Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, if we’re alone. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze. What is wrong with me? It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.

I know my head isn’t screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father, Heather
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Lips
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

As the school year progresses, Melinda notices alarming physical changes. What was previously an internal problem (Melinda's inability to talk about her assault) has now become a physical one. The parts of her body that allow her to speak (her throat, jaw, and lips), are becoming sore and difficult to use. By keeping her feelings and trauma bottled up, Melinda is harming herself both mentally and physically. That she relaxes somewhat around Heather, meanwhile, helps us to understand why she keeps the other girl around. Despite how annoying and shallow Heather can be, Melinda feels somewhat safe around her. 

The second section of this quote deals directly with Melinda's tortured feelings surrounding her sexual assault. She hates herself and her surroundings so much that she wishes "to leave" entirely. Her self-loathing stems from the fact that she feels stained and ruined by her trauma, and from her belief that she will never recover from what has been done to her. She has completely internalized these feelings, an action that causes both physical and emotional anguish.

At the end of the passage, Melinda calls her closet "a good thing" because it allows her to keep anyone else from hearing her tortured thoughts. What Melinda fails to understand, though, is that her torment is caused in large part by failing to share or communicate her inner pain. She believes that staying silent and alone is the only option, unaware that isolating herself is actually adding to her sense of trauma and depression. 

Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner means something to her. It’s like a holy obligation, part of what makes her a wife and mother. My family doesn’t talk much and we have nothing in common, but if my mother cooks a proper Thanksgiving dinner, it says we’ll be a family for one more year. Kodak logic. Only in film commercials does stuff like that work.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

In the midst of a disastrous Thanksgiving, Melinda reflects on why her mother cares so much about the holiday. While many teenagers feel hostilely towards adults—particularly their parents—Melinda articulates a deep cynicism here regarding her family. She believes that her mother's dedication to a ritual of togetherness and tradition (Thanksgiving) is in fact entirely deluded. That is, by focusing on appearances, such as the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, her mother is ignoring the family's broken and alienated reality.

Beneath Melinda's cynicism, however, readers are able to pick up important details about her mother. A hardworking and driven professional, Melinda's mother is clearly desperate to fulfill the traditional roles of "wife and mother." Seen in this light, her pointless efforts to cook the perfect Thanksgiving dinner are not contemptible, as Melinda seems to believe, but deeply sad. Faced with a distant husband and a nearly comatose daughter, Melinda's mother puts her efforts into cooking a perfect Thanksgiving dinner because she doesn't know what else to do.

Part 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

Applesmell soaks the air. One time when I was little, my parents took me to an orchard. Daddy set me high in an apple tree. It was like falling up into a storybook, yummy and red and leaf and the branch not shaking a bit. Bees bumbled through the air, so stuffed with apple they couldn’t be bothered to sting me. The sun warmed my hair, and a wind pushed my mother into my father’s arms, and all the apple-picking parents and children smiled for a long, long minute.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Triggered by the scent of apples, Melinda remembers a beloved scene from her childhood. This quote stands out as an unusual one within the novel—it lacks Melinda's usual blend of cynicism and pain, instead representing a moment of positivity and beauty. Given Melinda's hatred of the way that she has been growing up lately, it makes sense that she would be extremely nostalgic for her earlier childhood, as is shown here. Importantly, this memory also represents a time of connection between Melinda and her parents, during which they were an actual loving family, instead of simply three people living in the same house.

It's also worth noting that both trees and sunlight figure heavily into this treasured memory—two important and positive symbols within the narrative. Trees represent strength and rebirth to Melinda, while the sun represents the gradual thawing of her inner sense of frozenness. That they both show up within this passage makes clear how important the memory is to her, while also explaining her positive associations with these symbols. 

Despite the beauty and happiness contained within this passage, it is important to remember that to Melinda, this feeling of innocence and connection is completely lost. The memory is a good one, but she believes that she will never feel happy or whole again—so although she is recollecting a blissful moment in her past, the very act of doing so is deeply painful to her. 

Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

I bet they’d be divorced by now if I hadn’t been born. I’m sure I was a huge disappointment. I’m not pretty or smart or athletic. I’m just like them— an ordinary drone dressed in secrets and lies. I can’t believe we have to keep playacting until I graduate. It’s a shame we can’t just admit that we have failed family living, sell the
house, split the money, and get on with our lives.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Stuck with her parents during winter break, Melinda vocalizes her anger at both herself and her parents. She first calls herself a "disappointment" for being like her parents, whom she believes are dishonest and secretive. She then goes even further, calling her relationships with her mother and father (and theirs with each other) a sham, implying that they are "playacting" as a family instead of actually being one. 

Beneath this venom and cynicism, however, it is important to understand Melinda's pain and loneliness. Her parents were unable to protect her from assault, and now they are unable to understand why she has become a shell of her former self. Melinda is deeply angry about this, believing that her parents' insufficiencies make them unfit to be parents.

Although she may seem like someone who pushes others away, what Melinda actually craves is connection and communication—and her parents seem unable to provide those things to her. Given this failure, the traumatized and desperate Melinda believes that it would be better to cut ties altogether to avoid any more pain and suffering. 

I almost tell them right then and there. Tears flood my eyes. They noticed I’ve been trying to draw. They noticed. I try to swallow the snowball in my throat. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m sure they suspect I was at the party. Maybe they even heard about me calling the cops. But I want to tell them everything as we sit there by our plastic Christmas tree while the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer video plays.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Related Symbols: Water, Ice, and Melting
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

On Christmas Day, Melinda's parents reveal that they've noticed her newfound love of drawing, and give her various art supplies. Although Melinda generally takes a cynical and hardened attitude towards her parents, here she experiences a moment of warmth towards them.

The passage is significant because it makes clear how desperate Melinda is to tell her parents about her assault--so desperate that even the smallest thoughtful gesture almost sends her over the edge. The quotation is also rich in symbolism, as Melinda feels a "snowball" in her throat—an image of solid water, in contrast with the "tears" in her eyes. The snowball represents how frozen and motionless Melinda has felt for months, while the tears symbolize the possibility of thaw and release.

The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer video, while a vivid detail, also acts as an important symbol here. In a bit of tragic irony, an emblem of childhood and innocence plays on the screen as Melinda contemplates telling her parents about her sexual assault. The childlike past that the video represents contrasts with the mature, difficult reality of Melinda's present. 

Part 2, Chapter 21 Quotes

I open up a paper clip and scratch it across the inside of my left wrist. Pitiful. If a suicide attempt is a cry for help, then what is this? A whimper, a peep? I draw little windowcracks of blood, etching line after line until it stops hurting. It looks like I arm-wrestled a rosebush.
Mom sees the wrist at breakfast.
Mom: “I don’t have time for this, Melinda.”

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Blood
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

By now almost entirely unable to speak, Melinda escalates her self-harm, this time cutting shallow lines in her wrist with a paper clip. Even this attempt, though, cannot adequately communicate her pain. Indeed, Melinda mocks herself, calling her action "pitiful," a "whimper" or "peep" for help at best. Neither her words nor her actions can truly express the deep emotional and mental pain that she harbors. Melinda says that she continues cutting "until it stops hurting," a phrase that can refer to her wrist (which becomes numb), or to her emotional pain, which she is releasing through self-harm. 

Note too that even during a time of peak emotional distress, Melinda thinks about plants, commenting that she looks as if she's "arm-wrestled a rosebush." Even in this dark moment, Melinda's obsession with her art project remains—a glimmer of hope in a disturbing and bleak episode. 

The end of the passage, meanwhile, only emphasizes what readers already know: that Melinda's parents have no idea what has happened to her, and that they are only making it more difficult for her to communicate. Melinda's mother sees her action not as a cry for help, but as a plea for attention. In a world of disinterested adults and hostile peers, it makes sense that Melinda remains silent; she has no reason to believe that anyone wants to hear what she has to say. 

Part 3, Chapter 8 Quotes

I rock, thumping my head against the cinder-block wall. A half-forgotten holiday has unveiled every knife that sticks inside me, every cut. No Rachel, no Heather, not even a silly, geeky boy who would like the inside girl I think I am.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather, Rachel Bruin, David Petrakis
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Blood
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

After a disastrous Valentine's Day, Melinda crumbles inside her closet. Through most of her narrative, Melinda acts as if she doesn't care about the opinions of her peers. This passage, however, makes clear how false that attitude actually is. While she may pretend to be hardened and cynical, Melinda in fact feels "cut" every time that someone rejects or mocks her. Rather than being apathetic, Melinda actually cares far too much. An intelligent and emotionally attuned person, she tries to protect herself from the world with hostility, but is unable to do so.

It is interesting, too, that Melinda calls herself "the inside girl I think I am." Always aware of the differences between interior and exterior, Melinda understands that she is far more sensitive and observant than she lets on. Her idea of herself is different from the face she shows to the world; yet even as she hides this softer side of herself, she is desperate for someone else to access it. 

Part 3, Chapter 13 Quotes

The next time you work on your trees, don’t think about trees. Think about love, or hate, or joy, or rage— whatever makes you feel something, makes your palms sweat or your toes curl. Focus on that feeling. When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.

Related Characters: Mr. Freeman (speaker), Melinda Sordino
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Freeman tries to encourage Melinda as she attempts over and over again to create a piece of art about a tree. He urges her to give herself over to an emotion—a hard task for someone who is in such pain that she has attempted to emotionally freeze herself.

However difficult Mr. Freeman's challenge is, he has also given Melinda a way to express herself. Although she cannot speak about her experiences, she may still be able to create art about them, expressing her pain through creation rather than through language. 

Mr. Freeman's final warning—that people who don't express themselves "die one piece at a time"—rings all too true for the traumatized ninth grader. By failing to express herself, Melinda has harmed herself physically, socially, and emotionally. The dangers of silence and of frozenness are real, Mr. Freeman implies, and Melinda must fight against them if she hopes to become a functional person once more. 

Part 3, Chapter 14 Quotes

I stumble from thornbush to thornbush— my mother and father who hate each other, Rachel who hates me, a school that gags on me like I’m a hairball. And Heather.
I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft. Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings. How can I not find them? They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father, Heather, Mr. Freeman, Rachel Bruin
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In a moment of peak anguish, Melinda once again uses a botanical metaphor to express herself, thinking of all the obstacles and difficulties in her life as thornbushes ready to rip off her skin. Although it is frustrating to see Melinda remain silent and isolated, passages such as this help readers understand why she does so. To Melinda, everything in her life is hostile and sharp, ready to rip her to shreds. She does not feel safe with anyone, and so she can never release the terrible burden of her guilt and trauma. She is trying her best to heal from her sexual assault—to allow her "new skin to graft"—but everything in her life is making it more difficult to do so. 

This passage also makes clear Melinda's complicated relationship to emotion and appearances. Outwardly, Melinda is apathetic; she doesn't seem to care about school, friends, or life. Inwardly, however, Melinda is in constant torment, her guilt, shame, and regret eating her up inside. Given her inner pain, it makes sense that Melinda tries to remain as outwardly unfeeling as possible. If she ever lets out the powerful emotions inside of her, she is terrified of what will happen. 

Part 3, Chapter 19 Quotes

Slush is frozen over. People say that winter lasts forever, but it’s because they obsess over the thermometer. North in the mountains, the maple syrup is trickling. Brave geese punch through the thin ice left on the lake. Underground, pale seeds roll over in their sleep. Starting to get restless. Starting to dream green.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Birds, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

As the narrative progresses, Melinda's voice becomes slightly more hopeful. Emotionally frozen during the winter months, she begins to thaw as the weather turns towards spring. This passage illustrates the close relationship between Melinda's emotions and the changing of the seasons. The signs of spring—water thawing, birds returning, seeds growing—all have intensely symbolic and positive meanings for her. Water melts, just as her inward iciness melts as well. Birds fly free, just as Melinda hopes to one day be free of her trauma. Seeds grow from the cold ground, just like Melinda wishes to be reborn, and to come back from her trauma as strong as she was before. 

Like the "restless" seeds that are "dream[ing] green," Melinda too is starting to become restless, dreaming her way out of her cold, frozen shell. To her, spring is a metaphor for renewal and rebirth, processes in which she hopes to take part as well. Her close association with nature makes the tree an excellent subject for Melinda's artwork. Just as she uses natural metaphors to describe her own internal journey, so too will she use a representation of her tree to express her hidden emotions.  

I open my mouth to breathe, to scream, and his hand covers it. In my head, my voice is as clear as a bell: “NO I DON’T WANT TO!” But I can’t spit it out. I’m trying to remember how we got on the ground and where the moon went and wham! shirt up, shorts down, and the ground smells wet and dark and NO!— I’m not really here, I’m definitely back at Rachel’s, crimping my hair and gluing on fake nails, and he smells like beer and mean and he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up
and zips his jeans
and smiles.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, at last, Melinda describes the details of her sexual assault. Her recounting makes clear the trauma at the root of her inability to speak: during the actual moments of her rape, Melinda was unable to cry out for help or in protest. It is this experience that has kept her from having a voice since. The description also helps illuminate the reasons for Melinda's guilt and self-loathing. She believes that, since she was unable to verbally or physically fight off her rapist, that she is partially responsible for her assault. This belief is common among victims of sexual assault, and has been crippling Melinda emotionally and mentally for months. 

The idea that "I'm not really here" also helps us learn more about Melinda's character and her coping mechanisms for trauma. Throughout the novel she has longed to leave her body, her school, and her family. Readers learn here that she employed this tactic in the midst of her rape, attempting to separate herself from her own body. Despite being unable to do so at the time, she has essentially been trying to do the same thing ever since. 

Part 4, Chapter 5 Quotes

His lips move poison and she smiles and then she kisses him wet. Not a Girl Scout kiss. He gives her the notebook. His lips move. Lava spills out my ears. She is not any part of a pretend Rachelle-chick. I can only see third-grade Rachel who liked barbecue potato chips and who braided pink embroidery thread into my hair that I wore for months until my mom made me cut it out. I rest my forehead against the prickly stucco.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans, Rachel Bruin
Related Symbols: Lips
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

Melinda's worst nightmare comes true as her rapist, Andy Evans, begins dating her ex-best friend, Rachel Bruin. This passage offers an aching contrast between adulthood and childhood. In the present, Melinda sees a girl who has tormented her all year kissing the boy who violently raped her. Flashing back to the past, however, Melinda is unable to banish thoughts of her childhood with Rachel, or to stop remembering their lost innocence and former friendship. Her positive memories of Rachel are at war with her trauma surrounding Andy. 

Even at this point, though, Melinda is unable to speak. Completely at war with herself, she remains motionless, her impulse to protect herself in conflict with her desire to tell the truth and protect Rachel. 

Part 4, Chapter 7 Quotes

This looks like a tree, but it is an average, ordinary, everyday, boring tree. Breathe life into it. Make it bend— trees are flexible, so they don’t snap. Scar it, give it a twisted branch— perfect trees don’t exist. Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting. Be the tree.

Related Characters: Mr. Freeman (speaker), Melinda Sordino
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

While encouraging Melinda to continue working on her tree project, Mr. Freeman articulates one of the central beliefs at the core of the novel: that rather than attempting to escape the flaws and traumas in her past, Melinda must instead try to incorporate those experiences into her life. Urging Melinda to "Be the tree," Mr. Freeman hints that, on some level, he understands that he is talking not just about the art project, but about Melinda herself. He is a wise and empathetic teacher, and it makes sense that he would instinctively recognize his student's pain and her need to connect with others.

This passage also continues to support the idea of expression through art. Over and over, Mr. Freeman tells Melinda to put her feelings, her life, and herself into her artwork. Together, teacher and student work not just to create a satisfying final project, but to find a way for Melinda to find healing by creating a tree—a sentiment that is made clear within this quotation. 

Part 4, Chapter 9 Quotes

I am a deer frozen in the headlights of a tractor trailer. Is he going to hurt me again? He couldn’t, not in school. Could he? Why can’t I scream, say something, do anything? Why am I so afraid?

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Even as she continues to heal and come out of her shell, Melinda still becomes frozen and powerless when she encounters Andy Evans. So traumatized that even the sight of him robs her of agency and speech, Melinda has no way to defend herself against him. She hates herself for these feelings, believing them to be a sign of weakness.

What Melinda does not understand, however, is that her silence and fear are born out of trauma. Her inability to speak or move comes from an instinct to protect herself from the person who has deeply and irrevocably hurt her. A vivid and tragic representation of trauma, this passage helps readers to understand just how terribly Andy Evans has harmed Melinda, and how damaging his presence is for her on an emotional, psychological, and physical level. 

When I close the closet door behind me, I bury my face into the clothes on the left side of the rack, clothes that haven’t fit for years. I stuff my mouth with old fabric and scream until there are no sounds left under my skin.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

After having seen Andy Evans, Melinda literally retreats into her childhood, heading to the back of her bedroom closet to scream. It is of course symbolic that Melinda chooses to take out her frustration, rage, and fear while surrounded by "clothes that haven't fit for years." Forced into adulthood long before she was ready, Melinda buries herself in memories of the childhood to which she can never return. 

Just as when she howls at the pep rally, Melinda specifically screams where there is no one to hear her, even stuffing old clothes in her mouth in order to silence herself. Even now, Melinda is still silencing herself, unable to believe that anyone will listen to or care about her pain and trauma. Rather than deal with that disappointment, she tries instead to isolate and muffle herself, choosing to be alone and in anguish rather than trust those who have previously let her down. 

Part 4, Chapter 13 Quotes

I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Sick and delirious, Melinda admits how exhausting it is to constantly deal with her anger, depression, frustration, and trauma day after day. Since she cannot communicate with anyone, the only people she can talk to are the "whispers in my mind," most of which are filled with self-loathing, shame, and regret. Being constantly at war with herself has taken its toll: Melinda longs to escape through "amnesia" or a "coma," desperate to stop reliving the traumatic memories of her rape and her subsequent isolation. 

This quote is especially significant because it is one of the first times that Melinda uses the word "rape" in the book. Although in a dark place, she is at last admitting to herself what actually happened the previous summer. By naming the event, she is beginning to take ownership of it.

Meanwhile, Melinda's feeling that Andy has somehow violated her mind makes a great deal of sense. By forcing himself on her, Andy has isolated Melinda from her friends, ripped her from her childhood, and thrown her into a deep depression. His physical violence towards her has left her mentally damaged and tormented, unable to escape the traumatic memories surrounding her assault. 

Part 4, Chapter 22 Quotes

I crouch by the trunk, my fingers stroking the bark, seeking a Braille code, a clue, a message on how to come back to life after my long undersnow dormancy. I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way? Is
there a chain saw of the soul, an ax I can take to my memories or fears? I dig my fingers into the dirt and squeeze. A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melindagirl I haven’t seen in months. That is the seed I will care for.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Melinda returns to the scene of her rape and experiences a feeling of emotional release as she crouches by a tree. This passage represents one of the most intense instances of Melinda's identification with plants, trees, and nature. Recognizing that she has been frozen in place for months, Melinda here decides that she wants to come back, and to grow once more. 

At first, Melinda wonders whether she can cut away her trauma and terrible memories, but quickly realizes that this is not a real option. Instead, she decides that she must nurture the seeds of the person she used to be, until she can slowly grow into someone else. 

Communing with nature is a restorative act for Melinda. It helps remind her of who she is and who she wants to be, and gives her hope for the future. Although she acknowledges that she is "screwed up," Melinda is more optimistic and sincere here than we have ever seen her before. Returning to the scene of her trauma has had a healing effect on her, and gives both the protagonist and the readers hope that she may indeed continue to heal in the future. 

Part 4, Chapter 25 Quotes

I reach in and wrap my fingers around a triangle of glass. I hold it to Andy Evans’s neck. He freezes. I push just hard enough to raise one drop of blood. He raises his arms over his head. My hand quivers. I want to insert the glass all the way through his throat, I want to hear him scream. I look up. I see the stubble on his chin, a fleck of white in the corner of his mouth. His lips are paralyzed. He cannot speak. That’s good enough.
Me: “I said no.”

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Mirrors, Lips, Blood
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

After Andy Evans attempts to rape Melinda a second time, she tells him no, and then defends herself with a shard of glass from a mirror in her closet. One of the most significant acts in the book, Melinda's defeat of Andy has huge narrative and symbolic implications. 

Andy has entered Melinda's closet, the one place where she felt safe—even before attempting to physically assault her again, he has already violated her. Subsequently, although Melinda screams no, he continues to try to rape her, proving that he would have done so over the summer whether or not she protested. 

Throughout the book, Melinda detests mirrors and her reflection, but here, however, a mirror becomes her most vital tool, as she uses a broken shard to threaten Andy. Although he has metaphorically broken her, Melinda is still able to fight back, using pieces of her own fractured identity to defend herself.

With his life in danger, Andy goes completely silent; as Melinda tells us, "He cannot speak." By raping her the previous summer, Andy took away Melinda's voice and her agency. Now, not only has she taken those things back, but she has temporarily silenced her assaulter, the man responsible for her anguish and isolation. She has made him utterly powerless, and she uses this opportunity to utter the sentence that she has been longing to say for months: "I said no." 

Part 4, Chapter 26 Quotes

IT happened. There is no avoiding it, no forgetting. No running away, or flying, or burying, or hiding. Andy Evans raped me in August when I was drunk and too young to know what was happening. It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.
I look at my homely sketch. It doesn’t need anything. Even through the river in my eyes I can see that. It isn’t perfect and that makes it just right.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Birds, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Having finally created a tree that expresses her true self and her hidden trauma, Melinda is at last able to admit the truth to herself and to the readers, and explain what happened in clear terms. She at last cleanses herself of her guilt, acknowledging that her rape was not her fault, and that she will no longer remain frozen from the pain of the experience.

Creating art has indeed become a healing experience for Melinda, as a representation of her imperfect life, and her continued potential for growth. Although she has longed to escape throughout the narrative, Melinda now understands that flight is not possible; the only way she can continue living is to acknowledge her trauma and to continue growing as a person.

Melinda describes her tears as she finishes the sketch by saying that there is a "river" in her eyes. Throughout the novel, metaphors of freezing and ice have described Melinda's cold and static emotional state. Now, as she at last emerges, her "river" of tears represents the fact that she has thawed internally, and is ready to face the world again as a person with agency and a voice. 

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”
The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up.
Me: “Let me tell you about it.”

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Mr. Freeman (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

As Melinda and Mr. Freeman look at her tree sketch, Mr. Freeman reveals that he has at least guessed that Melinda has been through a traumatic experience. Always the most empathetic and understanding adult in the book, he is about to become the first person to whom Melinda fully tells her story. Given that his philosophy of art as self-expression has allowed Melinda to make her emotional journey, it makes sense that he should be the first to hear from her newfound voice.

Natural metaphors abound in this passage, as the last of Melinda's iciness melts away under Mr. Freeman's warmth and attention. The combination of fighting off Andy, making her tree, and Mr. Freeman's sympathetic ear have freed her from her frozen trauma. By "melting," Melinda is finally able to tell her story, and to reemerge into the world as a flawed but healing person who trusts others and is able to ease the burdens of her past by sharing them with those around her.

These are the final words of the novel—an optimistic ending for what is often a dark and upsetting book. By ending her narrative with Melinda telling her story to Mr. Freeman, author Laurie Halse Anderson is telling her readers that, just like Melinda's, their stories matter, and that there are those in the world who will listen to and understand them. 

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Melinda Sordino Character Timeline in Speak

The timeline below shows where the character Melinda Sordino appears in Speak. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1: Welcome to Merryweather High
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Melinda Sordino begins her first day at Merryweather High School in Syracuse, New York apprehensive and... (full context)
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As she enters school, Melinda comments that the school has changed the mascot from Trojans to Blue Devils because “Trojans”... (full context)
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Melinda sees her old friends, with whom she used to be in a clique called the... (full context)
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At a school assembly, after hesitating too long as she looks for somewhere to sit, Melinda is reprimanded by Mr. Neck, her future social studies teacher. Another isolated student, who introduces... (full context)
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As the assembly goes on, Melinda catalogues the top ten lies that teachers tell high school students, such as “We are... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2: Our Teachers are the Best...
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The school day continues and Melinda describes the periods. She names her English teacher Hairwoman because of her ridiculously frizzy orange-and-black... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3: Spotlight
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At lunch, Melinda doesn’t know where to sit as all of her former friends pretend to ignore her.... (full context)
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As Melinda tries to run away, Mr. Neck stops her. She is unable to explain why she... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4: Sanctuary
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After lunch Melinda has art, which she calls a “dream.” In contrast to Hairwoman and Mr. Neck, her... (full context)
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...to get their object to express an emotion, and for the first time that day, Melinda is excited. She gets a tree, and though she believes that the assignment will be... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Español
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Melinda sits in Spanish class, bored once again. She detachedly mocks her Spanish teacher’s attempts at... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: Home. Work.
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Two weeks go by “without a nuclear meltdown,” Melinda reports. The talkative Heather has been attempting to befriend her, while all her other former... (full context)
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Melinda begins to discuss her home life, which mainly involves avoiding her parents and ordering takeout.... (full context)
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As she eats dinner on her family’s white couch, Melinda relates how she turns the cushions one way to make a mess while she has... (full context)
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In her bedroom, Melinda describes how out of place she feels in it, having decorated it with her friends... (full context)
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As her father pours himself a drink and microwaves leftovers, Melinda decides to nap rather than doing her homework. She asserts that she is powerless against... (full context)
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As she rests, Melinda bites her lips and looks in the mirror, disgusted by what she sees. She is... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7: Our Fearless Leader
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Melinda hides in a bathroom and watches as a student who is cutting class outwits the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8: Fizz Ed
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Melinda describes gym with loathing, recounting how she has to change in a bathroom stall and... (full context)
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As the gym class plays field hockey on a muddy, cloudy day, an unenthusiastic Melinda continues to describe Nicole’s athletic skills, and good looks, the favoritism she receives from the... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9: Friends
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Melinda encounters Rachel in the bathroom, and scornfully describes how her former best friend has changed... (full context)
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Melinda longs for a friend—not a real, close friend, she explains, but a “pseudo-friend” so that... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10: Heathering
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Melinda goes to Heather’s house, which is pristine and perfectly decorated. They are greeted by Heather’s... (full context)
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...more involved, saying that ninth-graders need to become a part of their high school community, Melinda remembers how she used to be “happy” and “driven” like Heather. Now, however, she finds... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11: Burrow
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Melinda has a difficult day after being lectured by Hairwoman over her missing homework (the teacher... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12: Devils Destroy
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Melinda plans to use the distraction of the Homecoming pep rally in order to clean up... (full context)
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Melinda describes the pep rally, from the band to the cheerleaders to the back-flipping Blue Devils... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 13: Cheerleaders
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With sarcasm and bitterness, Melinda describes the school’s cheerleaders. She notes their simultaneous promiscuity and purity, and marvels at the... (full context)
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As the rally ends, someone knocks Melinda down three rows of bleachers. She fantasizes about creating a clique called the Anti-Cheerleaders, which... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 14: The Opposite of Inspiration is...Expiration?
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Since the pep rally, Melinda has used watercolors to paint trees that have been struck by lightning. Mr. Freeman has... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 15: Acting
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Although she wants to sleep during her Columbus Day vacation, Melinda instead goes over to Heather’s house, because Heather begged her and there’s “nothing on television... (full context)
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After Melinda tells Heather that they cannot join the musical because “‘We are nobody,’” Heather begins to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16: Dinner Theater
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Melinda’s parents scold her for her low grades and poor attitude. She imagines her mother as... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 17: Blue Roses
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Melinda discusses biology class, which is taught by Ms. Keen, whom Melinda believes could have been... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 18: Student Divided by Confusion Equals Algebra
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Melinda next discusses algebra, to which she arrives quite late (with the help of a forged... (full context)
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When Mr. Stetman calls on Melinda, she tries not to answer, using one of her fake smiles. Mr. Stetman, however, forces... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 19: Halloween
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...parents that she is too old to trick-or-treat (she doesn’t want to in any case), Melinda retreats to her bedroom. As she watches the trick-or-treaters, and listens to her parents’ squabbling,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 20: Name Name Name
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Melinda reports that the school board has changed the Merryweather High mascot from the Devils to... (full context)
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After the Spanish teacher calls on her, the students make fun of Melinda because she has the word for “pretty,” “linda,” in her name. In Spanish, they tell... (full context)
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Melinda develops a darkly comic theory about Kyle Rodgers’ party: she decides that aliens have abducted... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 21: The Marthas
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Melinda mockingly describes the Marthas, the clique that Heather is trying to join. It is composed... (full context)
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...probationary member is to decorate the faculty lounge for a Thanksgiving party. She pleads with Melinda to help, and although Melinda is disappointed with the shabbiness of the room, she agrees.... (full context)
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As the Marthas enter, Melinda exits. But she watches as the Marthas make fun of her lips and then force... (full context)
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Alone in the bathroom, Melinda cries. She comments that the “salt in my tears feels good when it stings my... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 22: Nightmare
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On an unspecified date between Halloween and Thanksgiving, Melinda is horrified to see IT in the hallway flirting with a cheerleader. As IT passes... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 23: My Report Card
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Melinda reports her grades to the reader; they are generally poor, except for a B in... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: Closet Space
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Melinda’s parents try to force her to stay after school for extra help from her teachers,... (full context)
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Noting that “[i]t is getting harder to talk,” Melinda describes how her throat is sore, her lips raw, and her jaw clenched. Although she... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Job Day
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Merryweather High holds Job Day, which Melinda mercilessly mocks. After taking an aptitude test, she is given a bewildering array of options... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5: First Amendment
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...claims have kept his son from getting a job as a firefighter. As he fumes, Melinda doodles an apple tree, and thinks about the linoleum block that she is trying to... (full context)
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...job because he didn’t deserve it. Mr. Neck reacts with fury and cuts off debate. Melinda continues to doodle the tree, calling her work “a cheap, cruddy drawing.” She is so... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: Giving Thanks
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Although she is incredibly stressed out by her job and the upcoming winter holidays, Melinda’s mother insists on cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving (despite the fact that this has led... (full context)
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...continues as the turkey floats in the sink in a bath of warm water, and Melinda’s mother deals with a crisis at work. Melinda refers to the floating turkey as a... (full context)
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Melinda hides in her bedroom and reads magazines as her parents fight. When she emerges, she... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7: Wishbone
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Melinda decides to make “a memorial for our turkey,” which she said was “tortured to provide…a... (full context)
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After several attempts, Melinda decides to skip her next class in order to work on her bird artwork, and... (full context)
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Inspired, Melinda glues the bones together like “a museum exhibit.” She makes knives and forks look as... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8: Peeled and Cored
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In biology class, Melinda is studying fruit. The students are instructed to dissect an apple, and while David Petrakis... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9: First Amendment, Second Verse
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...Petrakis is fighting for his freedom of speech in Mr. Neck’s social studies class. As Melinda watches, David turns on a tape recorder every time Mr. Neck speaks, in order to... (full context)
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As she waits for her guidance counselor in the school office, Melinda eavesdrops on a conversation between a secretary and a PTA volunteer, and learns that the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10: Wombats Rule!
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Heather persuades Melinda to go to the Winter Assembly so that she does not need to sit alone... (full context)
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...have voted for the Wombats, while most of the other votes are “write-ins or ineligible.” Melinda mentally mocks the name, and is delighted when Raven Cheerleader and Amber Cheerleader are upset... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11: Winter Break
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With both her parents at work, school out, and two days till Christmas, Melinda’s mother tells her (via note) to put up the Christmas tree. Melinda drags her family’s... (full context)
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Melinda speculates that if she hadn’t been born, her parents would probably be divorced by now.... (full context)
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After trying and failing to contact Heather, Melinda decides to pretend to be her friend instead, wondering what Heather would do if her... (full context)
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A wind rustles the branches above Melinda’s head, and she suddenly feels panicked, her “heart clanging like a firebell.” The spell of... (full context)
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On Christmas, the family exchanges gifts; among Melinda’s are a TV for her room, skates, and a sketch pad with charcoals because her... (full context)
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Melinda remembers a portion of the night of the party: how she snuck home later that... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12: Hard Labor
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Melinda’s parents decide that she can’t simply sit around the house during her Christmas vacation. She... (full context)
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The next day Melinda goes to her father’s insurance office, but is angry about how much easier his life... (full context)
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Furious with her father, Melinda is given the task of closing calendars into envelopes by licking them. She cuts her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13: Foul
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The unit in Melinda’s gym class is basketball, and she unexpectedly discovers that she has an amazing knack for... (full context)
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Ms. Connors and the boys’ Basketball Coach tell Melinda that she will get an A in gym if she coaches one of the players,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14: Coloring Outside the Lines
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Back in the art room, Melinda describes Mr. Freeman’s popularity and coolness: the students are allowed to eat in his class,... (full context)
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Melinda recalls how Principal Principal came by to inspect the room yesterday, but how the students... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15: Poster Child
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After receiving a note from Heather, Melinda goes to her house to find her sobbing about disappointing the Marthas at a Valentine’s... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 16: Dead Frogs
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Melinda’s biology class with Ms. Keene is scheduled for a frog dissection, and David Petrakis is... (full context)
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Melinda needs stitches, and is taken to the hospital by her mother. As the doctor shines... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17: Model Citizen
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Melinda reports that Heather has gotten a job as a model at a local department store... (full context)
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Melinda accompanies Heather to a bathing suit shoot, and Heather’s mother asks whether she too wants... (full context)
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Reflecting that she likes food too much to model, Melinda scoffs at Heather’s obsessive dieting. She watches as Heather attempts to model a swimsuit in... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 18: Death by Algebra
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Mr. Stetman is still determinedly trying to teach his class algebra; Melinda admires him, but refuses to learn or pay attention, even though he is trying to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20: Naming the Monster
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...only draw them in her closet (rather than in art class where people watch her), Melinda works hard on Heather’s posters for two full weeks, drawing “basketball players shooting cans through... (full context)
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As she is putting a poster up in the metal shop, IT comes in. Melinda freezes, feeling as if “flecks of metal” are slicing through her. When he sees her,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 21: Rent Round 3
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Melinda’s guidance counselor calls her mother to report her terrible grades. Melinda sarcastically comments that she... (full context)
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Melinda does her homework and shows it to her parents. Afterwards, however, she writes a runaway... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 22: Can It
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Melinda has started to sit with Heather at the edge of the Martha table for lunch.... (full context)
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The Marthas suddenly get excited as Andy Evans—whom Melinda identifies as IT—comes into the cafeteria. Emily reveals that he called her last night, while... (full context)
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Andy Evans walks over and begins to flirt with Emily while standing behind Melinda. Melinda tries to lean into the table, deaf to his words and utterly paralyzed. She... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 23: Dark Art
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...on his mural, instead sitting dejectedly on his stool. In the freezing cold art room, Melinda starts a new linoleum block, commenting that her last tree looked as if it had... (full context)
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Melinda gashes herself with her chisel, getting blood on the linoleum; all the students turn to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 24: My Report Card
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Melinda reports her terrible grades, even worse than the first quarter. She even gives herself a... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1: Death of the Wombat
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...than the wombats, because the mascot costume will take money away from the prom budget. Melinda imagines opposing teams making flyswatters and cans of insecticide for halftime shows. She notes that... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2: Cold Weather and Buses
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Melinda misses her bus because of the winter darkness, but her mother refuses to drive her... (full context)
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After deciding to go to a bakery called Fayette’s for donuts, Melinda sees Andy Evans (IT, as she calls him) in the parking lot. She freezes on... (full context)
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As she runs, Melinda remembers what she was like when she was “eleven years old and fast.” She imagines... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3: Escape
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Reveling in her freedom, Melinda walks down main street, despite the icy weather. She feels as if her insides are... (full context)
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Melinda decides to shop for spring clothes because none of her clothes from last year fit.... (full context)
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...she should tell someone about what happened to her on the night of the party, Melinda wishes to be in fifth grade again, when life was easy and simple. A mall... (full context)
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For the next four days, Melinda sets her alarm early and makes it to school, all the time wishing that she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4: Code Breaking
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Melinda mocks Hairwoman’s choice of earrings, and reports that her English class has started to study... (full context)
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Melinda wonders whether Hester ever tried to say no (presumably to her lover Reverend Dimmesdale’s sexual... (full context)
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...class in a conversation about the symbolism of glass within the novel, and Rachel (whom Melinda now calls Rachel/Rachelle) responds that she doesn’t believe in symbolism. To Hairwoman’s dismay, Rachel claims... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5: Stunted
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...Freeman is evaluating them every week in a painted list on his wall. Next to Melinda’s name is a question mark. Her tree, she reports, is “frozen.” She claims that a... (full context)
Melinda looks at a book of landscapes brimming with trees and plants. She recalls that Mr.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6: Lunch Doom
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Commenting that a high school cafeteria is a place meant for “Teenage Humiliation Rituals,” Melinda sits with Heather, but not at the Marthas’ table; instead they sit close to the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8: Cutting Out Hearts
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On Valentine’s Day, Melinda sees various displays of affection, and remembers the different phases of Valentine’s Day (from elementary... (full context)
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As Ms. Keen teaches a class about the literal birds and bees, Melinda frantically wonders whether David has sent her the card. She chews her thumbnail so hard... (full context)
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Melinda writes a note that says “‘Thanks!’” to David. “‘You are welcome,’” he writes back. It... (full context)
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At last mustering up her courage, Melinda opens the card, calling it “a white patch of hope”; it is from Heather to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9: Our Lady of the Waiting Room
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Melinda cuts school once again, and after falling asleep on the bus, ends up at Lady... (full context)
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After seeing a patient bleeding at the neck, Melinda returns the gown. There is nothing wrong with her, she thinks. “These are really sick... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 10: Clash of the Titans
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After having her absences reported, Melinda and her parents have a meeting with Principal Principal, as well as the guidance counselor.... (full context)
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Melinda’s father recalls the “sweet, loving little girl” who Melinda was “last year,” and threatens Principal... (full context)
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Melinda imagines her parents and the guidance counselor performing a song-and-dance routine about her. She giggles,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 11: MISS
Melinda is forced to attend Merryweather In-School Suspension (MISS); her guidance counselor, has created a contract... (full context)
When Mr. Neck is preoccupied, Andy blows in Melinda’s ear, and she fantasizes about killing him. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 12: Picasso
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Melinda feels useless in art class, and Mr. Freeman tells her that her “‘imagination is paralyzed.’”... (full context)
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After beginning her assignment skeptically, Melinda is bewitched when she gets to Cubism, marveling at the way that Picasso slices up... (full context)
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Inspired, Melinda draws “a Cubist tree” which looks like “glass shards” and “lips with triangle brown leaves.”... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 13: Riding Shotgun
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Melinda is playing the part of a “good girl,” going to class and even paying attention.... (full context)
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Rather than go to the mall together (an activity that they both hate), Melinda’s mother decides that her daughter will take the bus to her store, Effert’s, to shop.... (full context)
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As they approach Effert’s, Melinda chews a scab on her thumb. She thanks Mr. Freeman awkwardly, and he responds by... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: Hall of Mirrors
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Melinda enters Effert’s, only to find that her mother is on the phone. She grabs a... (full context)
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Examining herself in a three-way mirror at the store, Melinda adjusts it so that she can see “reflections of reflections, miles and miles of me.”... (full context)
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Remembering a movie in which a badly burned woman had to be given new skin, Melinda puts her scabbed mouth close to the mirror, and “[a] thousand bleeding, crusted lips push... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 15: Germination
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Melinda studies for a biology test about seeds, and finds herself interest in the topic, noting... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 16: Bologna Exile
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Since she is friendless, Melinda has begun to bring brown bag lunches to school in order to avoid the cafeteria... (full context)
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Melinda tries to read as she eats alone, but can’t concentrate because of the noise. She... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 17: Snow Day—School as Usual
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Eight inches of snow have fallen in Syracuse, but Melinda does not have a snow day. Hairwoman reminisces about the energy crisis in the 70s,... (full context)
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As the class discusses snow’s symbolism in Hawthorne, Melinda mentally asserts that snow symbolizes “[c]old and silence.” She contemplates the fury of a blizzard... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 18: Stupid Stupid
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Melinda goes to her closet after school rather than ride home on the bus with her... (full context)
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Waking up, Melinda realizes that she has slept until the final basketball game of the season. She intends... (full context)
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Melinda freezes at the idea of a party, and excuses herself immediately, mentally commenting that she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 19: A Night to Remember
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After the game, Melinda can’t sleep, so she climbs out of her window onto the porch roof, comparing the... (full context)
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Looking up at the moon, Melinda recalls that it “looked closer back in August.” She flashes back to Kyle Rodgers’ end-of-the-summer... (full context)
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Suddenly a senior (Andy Evans) walked out of the trees, called Melinda beautiful and asked her to dance. Drunk, dizzy, and excited, she danced with him, and... (full context)
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Her memories still blurry, Melinda recalls dialing the phone and calling 911. Seeing her reflection in the window, she was... (full context)
Melinda recalls silently walking home to her empty house. She reminds herself that it is winter... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 20: My Report Card
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Melinda relates another report card—her grades are worse than ever, and she gives herself an F... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1: Exterminators
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...arguing that the students have suffered “psychological harm” because of the “year’s lack of identity.” Melinda reacts with apathy. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2: The Wet Season
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Melinda reports that spring is close, and lists various signs. She notes that the seniors are... (full context)
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Comparing herself to a dog, Melinda comments that she has been going to classes and passing tests. Andy Evans (or Andy... (full context)
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Noting that Easter has come and gone, Melinda remembers how her mother used to make an Easter Egg hunt in the house for... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3: Spring Break
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Spring Break has come and gone, and Melinda feels as if her house is shrinking. She goes to the mall and decides against... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4: Genetics
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Melinda zones out as Ms. Keene discusses the last unit of biology: genetics. She thinks about... (full context)
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Rather than pay attention, Melinda sketches “a willow tree drooping into water” to tape on the inside of her closet;... (full context)
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Melinda reports “10 More Lies They Tell You in High School,” including “You will use algebra... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5: My Life as a Spy
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Melinda is horrified to discover that Rachel and Greta-Ingrid have gone to the movies with Andy,... (full context)
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Melinda follows Rachel and her friends to the foreign language wing, and watches as Andy flirts... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6: Thin Atmosphere
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Retreating to her closet, Melinda works through her options, wondering how to warn Rachel away from Andy, and discarding option... (full context)
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Melinda looks at the walls of the closet, which are filled with pictures of trees. She... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 7: Growing Pains
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Melinda opens by calling Mr. Freeman “a jerk” because he is criticizing her tree. Although she’s... (full context)
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Melinda remembers that she played a tree in a second-grade play because she was bad at... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 8: Gag Order
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...announces that all students who have failed his tests must write an extra-credit essay, and Melinda chooses to focus on the suffragettes, American women who fought for the right to vote.... (full context)
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Melinda is proud of her report, calling it “the best report ever,” and even hands it... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 9: No Justice, No Peace
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Melinda is enraged that Mr. Neck is forcing her to read her report just to bully... (full context)
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In MISS, still furious, Melinda wonders why adults presume to know what is going on inside of her. She describes... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 10: Advice from a Smart Mouth
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Melinda tells David Petrakis that Mr. Neck gave her a D on her report. He comments... (full context)
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David awkwardly flirts with Melinda, saying that he might call her; Melinda appears receptive, telling him that she doesn’t know... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 11: The Beast Prowls
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Melinda stays after school to practice creating chalk drawings of her tree, while Mr. Freeman goes... (full context)
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Melinda doesn’t respond; instead she walks straight home, hides in her own bedroom closet, buries her... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 12: Home Sick
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Melinda decides to pretend to be sick, only to find that she actually does have a... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 13: Oprah, Sally Jessy, Jerry, and Me
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Feverish and partially delirious, Melinda imagines her life as a talk show, and wonders if she was in fact raped.... (full context)
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Feeling even sicker, Melinda wishes for a coma or amnesia to get rid of her trauma. “Did he rape... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 14: Real Spring
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Melinda reports that it is May at last, and that it’s finally stopped raining—the sun is... (full context)
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Melinda’s father comes out and is impressed by her work. He tries to encourage her, but... (full context)
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Her father offers to take her to the hardware store, but Melinda refuses—too many people for her taste. As he leaves, she imagines “rak[ing] the leaves out... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 15: Fault!
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Melinda’s gym class has moved on to a tennis unit, and Ms. Connors pairs Melinda against... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 16: Yearbooks
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Yearbooks have come out, Melinda reports, signifying the end of the year. She watches students, especially cheerleaders, as they compete... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 17: Hairwoman No More
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Hairwoman has gotten a buzz cut, and Melinda wonders what has caused the transformation. She discusses the final essay—a choice between “‘Symbolism in... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 18: Little Writing on the Wall
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While Ivy and Melinda are working in the art room, Ivy accidentally gets magic marker on Melinda’s shirt. Melinda... (full context)
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The two girls try to wash the shirt in the bathroom. As Melinda waits in a stall wearing her bra while Ivy scrubs the shirt, she reads the... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 19: Prom Preparation
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Melinda comments sarcastically about the ridiculous behavior surrounding Senior Prom, and reacts in disbelief when she... (full context)
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In another turn of events, Heather has showed up at Melinda’s house, to Melinda’s mother’s delight. Feeling self conscious about her babyish bedroom, Melinda listens as... (full context)
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Heather finally gets to the point: she wants Melinda to help her decorate the Holiday Inn ballroom, where prom is going to be held,... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 20: Communication 101
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...up to Heather, planting marigolds, and asking her mother if she can redecorate her bedroom, Melinda attributes her newfound confidence to the spring weather. She decides to talk to Rachel. (full context)
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Finding Rachel in study hall, Melinda engages her in conversation; when Rachel reports that she’ll be going to France that summer,... (full context)
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Seeing the initials R.B. + A.E. (Rachel Bruin + Andy Evans) on Rachel’s notes, Melinda asks Rachel about the senior; Rachel responds happily, until Melinda asks what the two will... (full context)
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...for talking, the two girls begin to pass notes, with Rachel “melt[ing]” and asking if Melinda likes anyone. The conversation moves on to Kyle Rodger’s party; Rachel says that she’s not... (full context)
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Melinda writes a note explaining that she was raped at the party “under the trees”, adding... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 21: Chat Room
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A discouraged Melinda waits in the high school lobby, too upset by her conversation to go home. Suddenly... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 22: Pruning
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On a warm and sunny Saturday morning, Melinda watches as arborists come to cure the sick tree outside her house by trimming off... (full context)
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...her father, who is pretending to know more about the tree-pruning process than he does, Melinda takes her bike out and rides away, although she doesn’t remember the last time she... (full context)
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Melinda bikes to the barn where the party took place, and walks to the tree-filled spot... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 23: Prowling
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Starving from the exercise of riding her bike when she gets home, Melinda eats a large lunch and then gets to work gardening for the entire afternoon. Her... (full context)
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After napping, Melinda takes the bike out at night, riding by Heather, Nicole, and Rachel’s houses. It is... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 24: Postprom
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On Monday morning, Melinda hears all about prom drama. In addition to various scandalous pieces of gossip, she learns... (full context)
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Melinda comments that gossip is the only point of going to class. She imagines high school... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 25: Prey
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On a warm day in algebra class, Melinda realizes with a start that she doesn’t want to hide in her closet anymore. After... (full context)
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After school, Melinda goes to her closet to collect her belongings, including the poster of Maya Angelou and... (full context)
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Andy accuses a horrified Melinda of lying to Rachel about having been raped. He tells her that she “wanted it,”... (full context)
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Feeling assaulted by even his words, Melinda tries to leave, but he locks the closet door. Calling her a “strange bitch” and... (full context)
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As Andy lets go of Melinda’s wrists to give himself a free hand (presumably to unzip his fly), Melinda at last... (full context)
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Wishing that she could “hear him scream,” Melinda realizes that Andy’s “lips are paralyzed. He cannot speak.” She tells him that she said... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 26: Final Cut
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Mr. Freeman won’t hand in his grades, Melinda reports. She takes advantage of the delay to work on her tree one more time;... (full context)
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“My tree is definitely breathing,” Melinda reports. She tries to create an imperfect tree with initials in its bark, and a... (full context)
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Seniors walk in to say goodbye to Mr. Freeman, and Melinda calls them “girls” only to correct herself to “women.” One of the seniors is Amber... (full context)
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Melinda decides that her tree is missing something, and uses chalk and water to draw birds... (full context)
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Although there is “a river” in Melinda’s eyes, she can see that her tree is perfect in its imperfection. Mr. Freeman comes... (full context)
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Melinda imagines the tears “dissolv[ing] the last block of ice in my throat,” and feels herself... (full context)