Summary: First Marking Period, Part 3 (The Opposite of Inspiration Is . . . Expiration – My Report Card)

The Opposite of Inspiration Is . . . Expiration

In art class, Melinda paints trees struck by lightning, wanting them to look “nearly dead.” She struggles to draw something she thinks should be so simple. She can’t find any emotion in the trees she draws, and doubts Mr. Freeman will either.


Melinda begrudgingly spends Columbus Day at Heather’s house. Heather cries with frustration that it is so hard to make friends, being new to the school. In her ranting, she knocks a bottle of nail polish on the carpet. She lashes out at Melinda, and tells her she’s no help, doesn’t want to do anything, and just mopes around. Melinda tries to clean up the mess on the carpet, while Heather apologizes and tells her, “We’ll work our way into a good group.”

Dinner Theater

Melinda’s parents have heard from her teachers about her grades and missing homework. Mom says, “Look at me now,” in what Melinda calls the “Death Voice.” Melinda leaves the table and heads to her room, turning on her music to tune out her parents’ bickering because they are at a loss for how to deal with their daughter.

Blue Roses

Melinda’s biology class is studying cells. Melinda feels sorry for their teacher, Ms. Keen, who’s “stuck with us.” Melinda’s lab partner, David Petrakis, she muses, is not only a genius, but probably is good looking without his braces. He’s oblivious to her, except when she nearly breaks their microscope.

Student Divided by Confusion Equals Algebra

Melinda struggles to focus in algebra, which doesn’t make sense to her. Mr. Stetman, the teacher, calls her to the board to solve a problem, which she can’t. He calls Rachel, or Rachelle, up to help her. All Melinda can think about, standing in the front of the class next to Rachel, is how she should have washed her hair. Melinda is humiliated and imagines swallowing herself in order to disappear. 


Melinda’s parents agree that she is too old to go trick-or-treating, which suits her fine. She spends the evening in her room alone, reminiscing about Halloween’s spent with her friends, listening to her parents quarrel, and reading Dracula

Name Name Name

The school board wants to change the name of the school’s mascot from Devils to Tigers. The Ecology Club protests, asserting that tigers are an endangered species. Meanwhile, Melinda gets “hosed” in Spanish class. Linda in Spanish means “pretty.” For the rest of the class period, students call Melinda, “Me-no-linda.” 

Melinda theorizes that after the summer party, aliens abducted her and she’s now in an alternative universe they created—“a fake Earth and fake high school to study me and my reactions.”

The Marthas

Heather finds a group to join that is “big on helping.” The “Marthas” named their group based on Martha in the Bible. They are good-deed doers. Melinda agrees to help Heather on her probationary task of decorating the faculty lounge. The Marthas compliment what they think is Heather’s work, and ask who Melinda is. One of them calls her “creepy,” and wonders what’s the matter with her lips. Melinda retreats to the bathroom where the salt from her tears stings her lips.


Melinda sees “IT.” IT is everywhere. IT is her nightmare from which she cannot wake up.

My Report Card

Melinda’s report card shows one D, six C’s, two B’s, and an A in Art.

Analysis: First Marking Period, Part 3 (The Opposite of Inspiration Is . . . Expiration – My Report Card)

The motif of performance comes to the forefront of this section. Melinda goes to Heather's house and acts like a friend, observing that Heather's room has no personality and looks staged. Heather’s attempt to join the Marthas despite not fitting in with their group is another example of inauthentic performance. In the chapter aptly titled “Dinner Theater,” the acting continues in Melinda’s home as Melinda describes the theatrical way her parents reprimand her for her poor grades. The chapter is written in the same style as the dialogue in a play, complete with stage directions that indicate Melinda is playing the part of Victim to her parents’ admonitions. When her parents turn on each other, Melinda leaves the room as if exiting the stage, implying their attempts at discipline are a kind of performance.

Language and expression continue to play a role in the story. Melinda’s struggle to develop her tree project in art class serves as a parallel for her struggle to express her emotions. At first, Melinda draws trees nearly killed by lightning, symbolizing the trauma she has experienced. In the chapter ominously entitled “Nightmare,” the reason for Melinda’s silence is introduced as “IT.” This simple word serves as Melinda's first naming of what happened to her, and the capital letters suggest the event's gravity. When “IT” winks at her, Melinda’s physical trauma response is a paralyzed silence, which she describes figuratively as her lips being stitched shut. This metaphor emphasizes that Melinda still cannot communicate what has happened to her.