Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: 1999 by Penguin
My Rating: 5 stars
Tags: YA | Realistic
Includes: Brief profanity, Sexuality
First Lines: It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache. The school bus wheezes to my corner.
Melinda is Outcast. Ever since she called the cops at an end-of-summer party, everyone avoids her. She lost all of her friends and now has to start her first year of high school entirely alone. But there was a reason she called the cops that night, a reason that she's been trying to block from her mind. She can't gain the courage to open her mouth and speak out, so instead she retreats to where it's safe - herself.
This was the first free verse novel and book by Laurie Halse Anderson that I've ever read. Saying that I'm impressed would be an understatement. This author's writing is so deep, emotional, pure, and raw that I'm surprised she even made up this story. Melinda's character felt so real to me; and being inside of her head throughout the entire novel was an entirely new ride for me. She had so much depth, and I could relate to her so well. I'm not much of a talker and people ask me all the time why I'm so quiet - I usually reply with, "Because I have nothing to say." I came across a line in this book that said the exact same thing! Melinda was so misunderstood by every single person she came in contact with. Just because she rarely talked, they assumed she was rebelling, weird, freaky, anything they wanted to imagine. It took me awhile to get used to the style of writing. There were many incomplete sentences, phrases, and repeated words. However I'm so glad that it was set up this way. It gave an entirely new perspective to the writing and into Melinda's head. Anderson's descriptive writing was so captivating and interesting; even when Melinda was doing normal every day routines, the author was able to make it sound so fascinating.
I loved watching the weak and silent Melinda develop into a strong person. During the last few 'chapters', every tiny way that she started to stand up for herself made me want to do a little victory dance. How she was able to put up with all the rude, uncaring people around her, I do not know. I probably would have snapped. But Melinda remained silent - only screaming when she was alone in her bedroom closet. The reader is able to figure out what happened on the night of the party very early on; however, Melinda doesn't actually play it out in her mind until halfway into the book. I like when authors give a little air of mystery to a book and don't cram all the explaining in the beginning. There is no sugarcoating in this novel, and even though Melinda never realizes it, she is depressed. Extremely. So sure, it was dark at times, but there were also funny parts. 'Gasp! You laughed while reading a sad book?!' Yes. The way Melinda used nicknames for her teachers was humorous. If you don't believe me, read the book.
This was a super powerful, enjoyable, memorable, and inspiring book. Melinda had a story to share, and it was one that I'm so glad I finally spent the time to read. I know this book has been used in many English classes, and I would beg to be able to read something this fantastic at school! Next on the list: watch the movie.
Cover Thoughts: Ahhh so great. I like how the tree was incorporated into it, and that her mouth isn't showing. At first glance this is just an okay cover, but after reading the book, it has so much more depth to it.