Summary: Chapter 14
On the way into Miss Gordon’s class, Melody sees a group of students crowded around Rose’s desk. As Melody and Catherine proceed over, they hear Rose talking about her brand-new laptop. Melody closes her eyes and imagines what the perfect laptop made for her might look like and then she has an idea. She thinks perhaps something like this already exists. She tries frantically to get her thoughts across to Catherine, pointing at words on her communication board. After a few attempts, Catherine understands that Melody is wanting a computer specially designed for her. Miss Gordon tells the class that they will need to decide who they are going to write about for their biography. Catherine watches as Melody spells out Stephen Hawking. Melody wants to know more about him as well as the computers and devices that help him speak. On her board, she taps out her desire for a computer. Catherine agrees to help Melody look into it.
Summary: Chapter 15
Melody and Catherine research communication devices and come across a device called the Medi-Talker that Melody can operate with her thumbs. Catherine prints out the information, and after school Melody exuberantly shows the paperwork to Mrs. V. After reviewing it, Mrs. V decides it would be perfect for Melody and passes the information along to Melody’s mother. Melody’s parents also think it’s a great idea and they submit all the paperwork necessary to order it. Soon after, Mrs. V has the package waiting at her house for Melody to open after school.
Melody is so excited that she almost has a “tornado explosion.” Mrs. V removes the Medi-Talker from the box, plugs it in to charge the battery, and begins to read the instructions. Melody impatiently rolls over to it and pushes a button with her right thumb, which turns it on. They realize the device has more than a dozen levels that can all be accessed by a single button. Each level comes programmed with thousands of words, phrases, numbers, and even silly jokes in its memory. Mrs. V begins adding all of the names of the people Melody knows as well as her vocabulary words and phrases to personalize it for her. After programming for a while, Melody pushes two buttons, and the Medi-Talker says “Thanks, Mrs. V.” They both tear up a bit. Melody decides to call the device Elvira, after a song that she likes. When Melody’s parents arrive to pick Melody and Penny up, Melody pushes a button on Elvira and her first words to her parents are spoken, “Hi, Dad. Hi, Mom. I am so happy.” Then, she pushes more buttons to say something to her parents she has never said: “I love you.” Her parents get very emotional.
Summary: Chapter 16
Melody brings her Medi-Talker to school with her after practicing with it over Christmas break. Elvira makes a big impression on the students and the teachers as Melody demonstrates all that she can do with it. Mrs. Shannon, Catherine, and Rose are particularly happy for Melody. In Miss Gordon’s class, Claire makes a snide remark, but Melody turns it around on her and gets the class laughing. Then Melody has the Medi-Talker tell a silly joke, and the students laugh again, including Melody. Finally, for the first time in her life, she feels like one of them. Claire comments that she never realized that Melody had thoughts in her head. Miss Gordon tells her and the rest of the class that Melody has always had things to say but she’s never had a way to say them. Melody agrees with her. Rose comes over to Melody and they exchange a few words, establishing to Melody that they are friends.
Analysis: Chapters 14–16
The arrival of the Medi-Talker is the biggest positive change in Melody’s life and a turning point in the narrative. The ability to express herself in real time and with her own words transforms Melody from a severely isolated character into someone capable of meaningful interactions with other characters. With the Medi-Talker, Melody finally has two things she has longed for all her life: the ability to express herself and the ability to connect with other people. These new abilities drive the rising action of the plot. Up to this point, Melody’s internal struggle with her disability has been the main conflict, but for the rest of the story Melody’s conflicts are with other characters, mainly classmates and teachers. Melody quickly shows that the passive behavior she’s been forced into by her disability is not her real character when she drives her wheelchair over to the Medi-Talker, turns it on, and starts exploring its uses. Her first words reveal her strong connections to her family and Mrs. V: She wants to thank them, tell them how she is feeling, and express her love for them. When she appears at school with the ability to talk, it is a personal triumph. Even the thoughtless remarks made by a few classmates don’t dim her happiness. She finds support for her new expressiveness and some degree of understanding from Mrs. Gordon, Connor, and Rose.
Melody’s choice of Stephen Hawking for her biography project provides an example of a real person with serious physical disabilities and enormous intellectual power. Like Melody, Hawking used a wheelchair and a voice synthesizing device to navigate his world. Despite his physical disabilities, Hawking is known for his brilliance, proof that the ability to speak, albeit through a machine, allows people like him and Melody to demonstrate their intelligence and gain respect. With Hawking serving as a real-life example, the reader is shown the potential of the Medi-Talker to transform how people view Melody and how she experiences the world. Moreover, while most people see Hawking only as a scientist, Melody’s unique perspective allows her to see him as a whole person. She wonders about whether he needs help to use the bathroom and whether he can be an active father. Her perception humanizes him and creates a connection between herself and this culturally revered figure.