Summary: First Marking Period, Part 2 (Home. Work. – Cheerleaders)
Two weeks of school have passed, and Melinda hasn’t had a meltdown, which is quite the accomplishment. Her ex-friends continue to ignore her, and she gets bumped purposefully and often in the hallways. At home, her family communicates with each other with notes on the refrigerator. Melinda’s mom manages a clothing store where staff problems preoccupy her. Melinda orders pizza for dinner, and eats in the living room, but quickly makes it look like she hasn’t (it’s against the rules) when she hears her dad’s car pull up.
Avoiding contact with her dad, Melinda goes to her bedroom, which is still roses and pink. Back in fifth grade, with Rachel leading the way, Melinda, Nicole, Ivy, and Jessica had all redone their rooms. Today, instead of doing homework, Melinda climbs under the covers on her bed. She sees herself in the mirror, crosses the room to take it down, and puts it in the back of the closet.
Our Fearless Leader
Melinda hides in the school bathroom waiting for the all-clear. She watches a tense exchange between the Principal (who she calls “Principal Principal”) and a student who doesn’t have a hall pass.
Melinda knows two girls in her gym class, Heather and Nicole. Nicole is a star soccer player who doesn’t mind changing her clothes in front of the other girls. She and Melinda hadn’t been that close before, in their group of friends. The gym teachers love Nicole. She shows Potential. She scored 35 goals against Melinda’s team one day. And she’s actually nice. She’s not a bitch, which makes it hard for Melinda to hate her.
Rachel is in the bathroom. So is Melinda. Melinda can’t believe Rachel used to be her best friend. Unlike Rachel, who now calls herself Rachelle because she hangs out with the foreign exchange students, Melinda has no desire to try to be cool. The two girls exchange a bit of small talk. Melinda would rather be screaming at her: stop treating me like dirt! What kind of friend doesn’t even try to find out the truth about what really happened? Rachelle, smoking a candy cigarette, blows fake smoke in Melinda’s face. Melinda decides she needs a friend, even a “pseudo, disposable friend,” or a “friend as accessory” will do.
Heather wants Melinda to join a club. But Melinda thinks clubs are stupid. Heather, on the other hand, wants to set goals, and she asks Melinda what her goals are. Melinda decides that she doesn’t really like Heather anymore – she thinks of her as an eager dog. And she doesn’t say it out loud, but her goal is to go home and take a nap.
Melinda has to make up homework in Hairwoman’s classroom and misses study hall. The next day, confused because study hall was moved to the library, Melinda, distraught, arrives late. The librarian gives her a late pass. Later that day, while trying to avoid Mr. Neck who wants to collect her late homework, Melinda stumbles into an unused janitor’s closet. She decides she will turn it into her own safe space. Later, she grabs a pad of late passes from Hairwoman’s desk.
Melinda tries to duck out of the Homecoming Rally but ends up captured by Heather and finds herself in the ninth grade bleacher section. When she sits down, a girl asks if she is Melinda Sordino, “the one who called the cops at Kyle Rodgers’s party?” Another girls chimes in that her brother was arrested at that party. Students bully, heckle, and push Melinda. She tells herself to breathe, to not say anything. She can’t tell them what really happened.
Melinda concludes that the cheerleaders live in two realities at the same time—they sleep with the football players on Saturday night and transform into “virginal goddesses” on Monday. At the end of the pep rally, Melinda is “accidentally” pushed down three rows of bleachers.
Analysis: First Marking Period, Part 2 (Home. Work. – Cheerleaders)
Melinda’s social observations and behavior provide insight into the theme of false appearances. She builds a superficial friendship with Heather, not because she likes Heather, but because the social politics of high school require her to have a friend. Melinda rationalizes her behavior by repeatedly pointing out that everyone possesses two sides—one they hide and one they show. Melinda observes this irony in the fact that the school's cheerleaders are considered role models for their appearance of virginal perfection, even though their private behavior is less than chaste. Melinda's mother works in the city because she likes others' perception of her job even though working in the city makes her life more difficult. Even the couch in Melinda's home has two sides, a bright, white side, and a stained side they use for real life. Similarly, Melinda's bedroom, designed from ideas lifted from her former friends, has never fit her personality and does not represent who she truly is.
Melinda’s inability to communicate pervades both her home and school life. Melinda’s passing communication with her parents emphasizes their inability or unwillingness to realize their daughter is experiencing depression. Melinda even hides her bedroom mirror in her closet to avoid seeing her own reflection, suggesting that whatever happened is too painful to confront. The fact that she fails to turn in her homework and often physically hides from her teachers is another example of Melinda using avoidance in place of communication. At the pep rally, this inability to communicate is further exemplified when Melinda is literally paralyzed into silence, unable to defend herself verbally or physically. It becomes clear in this scene that Melinda’s inability to communicate is not a choice but a physical response to trauma.