Summary: Fourth Marking Period, Part 3 (Communication 101 – The Final Cut)

Communication 101

Melinda feels empowered by the way she’s stood her ground recently. She also feels compelled to say something to Rachel about Andy. She encounters Rachel in the library. They talk hesitantly at first. The librarian tells them to be quiet, so they continue passing notes back and forth, about the party, about that night. Melinda writes, “I didn’t call the cops to break up the party, I called them because some guy raped me.” Rachel, stunned, writes how sorry she is. Melinda responds that she couldn’t tell anybody. No one knows. Rachel asks “WHO DID IT???” Melinda writes back, “Andy Evans.” Rachel, unable to accept the revelation, storms out, calling Melinda a jealous, “twisted little freak.”

Chat Room

Melinda stands in the lobby and stares out at the buses, neither wanting to go home nor to stay at school. She hears Ivy calling her name. She wants to show Melinda something in the bathroom. In the stall, under Andy Evans name in the “Guys to Stay Away From” list are words describing him: “He’s a creep. He’s a bastard.” Other warnings say, “Stay away!!!! He should be locked up. He thinks he’s all that. Call the cops.” Melinda describes her reaction to what she reads as feeling like she can fly.


The yard work continues, and Melinda’s dad has joined in. Professionals trim the tree near Melinda’s bedroom window. Melinda is afraid they are killing it, but her dad tells her that by summer’s end it will be the strongest on the block. Melinda rides her bike to the Rodgers’s house, and walks to the site on the property where she was raped. She digs in the dirt, wondering what can burst forth from the surface. The seed she will care for, she decides, is the quiet Melinda girl that she hasn’t seen in months.


Melinda returns home, ravenous. She eats lunch and works outside, raking, edging, mowing, and mulching the bushes. She falls asleep on the couch and wakes up after midnight. Now alert, she rides her bike through the streets, past the houses of people she used to know, her ex-friends. Melinda feels exhilarated.


Melinda pieces together the story about Rachel dumping Andy at the Prom when he became inappropriately aggressive.  Andy is now angry and “pissed off.”


Melinda realizes that she doesn’t need her burrow, or closet, anymore since she no longer wants to hide. After school, she goes to the closet and gathers things that she wants to take home. As she steps out of the closet, Andy suddenly slams into her, flicks on the light, and closes the door. She’s trapped. He tells her that she’s lied, that he’s never raped anyone—because he doesn’t have to. Andy locks the door, grabs Melinda, and tells her she’s not going to scream. But she does scream, “NNNOOO!!!” Andy hits Melinda, but she manages to break a mirror on the wall, grab a shard of glass, and hold it to his neck. “I said no,” she tells him emphatically. The girl’s lacrosse team had heard her scream, and they are standing in the hall when she opens the door. Someone races away to get help.

Final Cut

Melinda stays after school in Mr. Freeman’s art classroom to try to get her tree right. She says that the best part of her tree is  its new growth. Some seniors come in to say goodbye to Mr. Freeman. One of them, “Amber Cheerleader” sees Melinda and tells her “Way to go. I hope you’re okay.” With only a few hours of school left, Melinda has found herself suddenly popular. She realizes that IT happened, there’s no erasing it. But she’s not going to let it kill her and she knows she can grow. Time is up and Melinda shows her picture to Mr. Freeman. She tears up, and he tells her she has an A+. Gently, he asks her, “You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?” Melinda nods. “Let me tell you about it.”

Analysis: Fourth Marking Period, Part 3 (Communication 101 – The Final Cut)

The first chapter in this section, “Communication 101,” emphasizes the novel’s most important theme: communication. Language continues to play an important role as Melinda struggles to find the right words to free herself from her frozen state by describing what happened to her. When she can't speak the words to Rachel, she writes them. She still struggles to find the correct words, calling it “hurt,” then finally “rape.” Melinda has begun to realize that finding the right words to speak up for yourself builds strength. The climax of the novel occurs when Andy once again attempts to attack Melinda. At this point, Melinda has fully come into her voice, and this is emphasized not only by her screams and verbal cries of “no,” but by the fact that she physically fights back. When she holds a piece of mirror to his neck, Andy "freezes," symbolizing how he and Melinda have reversed roles. Melinda has reclaimed her power and silenced Andy. Significantly, it is the student athletes who respond to Melinda’s screams, not any adults, further building the motif of authority figures not actually listening. Their arrival in response to her screams signifies that Melinda’s voice has finally been heard.

The tree in front of Melinda's bedroom window mirrors the trees in her artwork, and both symbolize the theme of learning how to heal after trauma. As arborists prune the dead limbs from the tree, her father explains that when you cut off damage, the tree can grow again. In this metaphor, the tree represents Melinda and the pruning she needs to do on herself. Dismantling the closet symbolizes the end of Melinda's hiding and self-isolation. As Melinda laments that her tree still needs something, she decides to add a bird, a symbol of life. As she draws her final tree, she plainly says what happened, names her predator, and begins to shed tears on the page. Like a tree, she has sustained damage that can't be erased, but she also knows that she still holds the potential for new growth. She describes her tears as dissolving the last block of ice in her throat, symbolizing Melinda's release, and when Mr. Freeman gives her the time and space, Melinda speaks.