Melinda, who is just entering 9th grade, narrates this story, which is set in a high school world that is rife with cliques and clans. Though some readers might find that this very stereotypical high school environment (of Jocks, and Country Clubbers, and Cheerleaders, and Goths) does not ring true to their own personal experiences, Melinda's turmoil as she navigates her new school is palpable. The cause of Melinda's distress does not come out fully until three-quarters of the way through the book, but she's withdrawn and depressed. Something happened over the summer, which caused all of her friends to abandon her. And, whatever happened, she's too ashamed of it to talk about it to anyone: not to her parents, who are flawed, but care about her; to her friends (even if they had given her a chance); not even to the quirky art teacher who is trying to give her a chance. [Spoiler alert] Like so many high school lives, this book is divided into grading periods -- and Melinda's grades get worse and worse as the weight of her rape -- by a senior, during a party over the summer -- threatens to suffocate her. Only by standing up for herself, and taking control of her own feelings, does Melinda find the courage to admit what happened to her -- the courage to speak. This story gives a clear insight into teenage life, depression, and the aftermath of acquaintance rape and all of the guilt, shame, and confusion that can come with it. (There's also substory in the novel, Melinda's friendship with a classmate, who fully takes on a fight against a xenophobic, anti-immigration teacher, which is very interesting and compelling.)
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