I suppose it’s a good thing to be unable to forget anything—being able to keep every instant of my life crammed inside my head. But it’s also very frustrating. I can’t share any of it, and none of it ever goes away.
In Chapter 2, Melody says these lines after trying and failing to tell her mother that she likes the song “Elvira.” In this quote, Melody identifies one of her gifts as well as her biggest frustration. Her photographic memory makes it easy for her to memorize information after reading or hearing it only once, a talent that makes her an excellent quiz team member. But because she cannot speak, she cannot share her knowledge. She can receive and understand information but cannot express herself effectively. Her memory fills up with trivial details she would rather forget, such as the feeling of oatmeal or taste of toothpaste in her mouth. She is frustrated by the things she wishes she could share with others, such as her love of the smell of her mother’s freshly shampooed hair or the feeling of her father’s stubbly face before he shaves. At several points throughout the book, both she and other characters suggest that Melody may explode from the pressure of all the words backed up within her.
I’m sure Butterscotch would have preferred a nice thick bone instead, but she can’t talk either, so both my dog and I get what they give us.
This quotation falls in Chapter 8, after Butterscotch the dog proves that she is able to help and protect Melody. When Melody falls from her wheelchair, Butterscotch alerts Melody’s mother. Melody’s mother rewards Butterscotch with a treat, but it’s not the treat that Melody thinks Butterscotch would prefer. Melody sympathizes with Butterscotch’s inability to make her preference known, comparing it to her own inability to speak. This quote emphasizes that enforced passivity is an ongoing fact of Melody’s life. Before the arrival of the Medi-Talker, she is unable to communicate any kind of preference unless someone else has already provided options for her. She can point to words on her communication board, but she can’t add any words of her own. She can nod or shake her head to say “yes” or “no,” but she can’t request choices that haven’t been offered. By comparing herself to Butterscotch, Melody points out that she is almost completely reliant on her caregivers, much like a pet would be.
I realize I’ve been waiting for this thing [the Medi-Talker] all my life.
In Chapter 15, Melody describes the long process of acquiring her Medi-Talker. She is frustrated by the many applications, forms, and approvals required to get the machine, and she can already imagine how the Medi-Talker will transform her life. While the wait for the Medi-Talker feels endless, her desperation to receive it makes Melody realize that for as long as she can remember, she has been hoping to find a way to communicate her thoughts out loud. This section of the text emphasizes Melody’s restless anticipation, but her years of hoping for a resource like the Medi-Talker highlight her patience and resilience. She has lived blanketed and surrounded by words, and now, for the first time, she will be able to use them as she chooses. Her inability to communicate in words has left her trapped and often misunderstood, as shown through many previous incidents, from her father not understanding her request for a Big Mac to her mother blaming her for her fish’s death. Gaining this ability is a turning point in Melody’s story, promising an end to a life of enforced silence.
I still couldn’t get over the fact I was part of the team. Okay. Truth. There was the team, and there was me, and we were in the same room. But we weren’t quite a team. They appreciated the fact that I usually got the answers right, but….
Melody makes a realistic assessment of her status on the quiz team at the beginning of Chapter 22. Melody’s teammates haven’t embraced her as one of them, and their failure to do so is representative of her struggle to find acceptance throughout the book. Melody’s teammates understand that she is intelligent, but all of them, including Mr. Dimming, are uncomfortable around her. Melody struggles to keep up with their rapid dialogue and tries to produce timely responses on her machine, but even though she knows the answers right away, she is often unable to respond before another teammate speaks. Except for Claire and her casual cruelty, Melody’s teammates mostly ignore her in their practice sessions. Though she is part of the team, her sense of belonging is diminished due to her peers’ refusal to see past her disability and fully accept her.