Summary: Second Marking Period, Part 1 (Go _______ (Fill in the Blank) – Winter Break)

Go _______ (Fill in the Blank)

The school mascot will not be Tigers. The search for a school name continues. Current choices are The Bees, The Icebergs, Hilltoppers, or Wombats.

Closet Space

Melinda’s parents insist she stay after school to finish her homework. She does, but spends the time in her closet, or burrow. Sometimes she sleeps there. But mostly she thinks about what happened, about the “beast in my gut.” She thinks about how, even if she could erase the memory, the stain of it will be with her forever. She finds comfort in her closet, where no one else can hear her thoughts.

All Together Now

Students in the Spanish class have been pretending they don’t understand, and the teacher is on to them. She threatens detention if they keep pretending. Melinda decides conjugation of verbs beats detention, so she completes her work.

Job Day

Students take the career assessment. Melinda’s results suggest she should pursue a career as a firefighter, in forestry, communications, or mortuary science. Heather’s results point to a career in nursing, which thrills her.

First Amendment

Mr. Neck opens class with a racist rant about immigration, followed by a debate: “America should have closed her borders in 1900.” Students do a bit of ancestry calculation and discover they wouldn’t be here if that was the case. David Petrakis takes a stand against Mr. Neck’s views, referencing the U.S. Constitution, free speech and the First Amendment, and “protesting the tone of this lesson as racist, intolerant, and xenophobic.” Told to sit down by Mr. Neck, David instead picks up his books and walks out of class. “I have never heard a more eloquent silence,” observes Melinda.

Giving Thanks

On most Thanksgivings, Melinda’s mom goes to work, and her dad orders pizza. This year, her mom wants to cook. Melinda and her dad plead with her not to, but she insists. Thanksgiving morning, the turkey is still in the freezer. After several hours trying to thaw it, while fielding emergency calls from work, she gives up. Melinda’s dad tries to make turkey soup which turns out more like glue. They order pizza.


Melinda brings the turkey’s bones to art class but struggles to turn them into anything she’s happy with. Mr. Freeman arranges for Melinda to stay another class period, and Ivy, whose theme is “clown” wants to stay, too. Melinda pieces together the turkey bones and puts a Barbie doll head in the middle of it. Ivy tells her “good job,” and Mr. Freeman’s reaction is positive: “This has meaning. Pain.” 

Peeled and Cored

In biology, Ms. Keen teaches the students about fruit. They dissect apples, and the apple smell reminds Melinda of the time her parents took her to an orchard, which felt like “falling up into a storybook,” when her dad perched her high in an apple tree. In class, she cuts her apple and is delighted to find “an apple tree growing from an apple seed growing in an apple.”

First Amendment, Second Verse

David Petrakis now brings a tape recorder to class, and Mr. Neck glares at him. Melinda overhears that there is a lawyer involved when she is waiting in the office for her guidance counselor who will tell her: you’re not living up to your Potential. The next day, David sets up a video camera in the back of the class. He is Melinda’s hero.

Wombat’s Rule

Melinda goes to the Winter Assembly with Heather. Heather gives her an early Christmas present, bell earrings that jingle. Melinda appreciates that the sound drowns out the voices around her. She decides she will give Heather a friendship necklace. 

Winter Break

Two days before Christmas, a note on the refrigerator from her mom says that Melinda can put up the tree if she wants. Melinda pulls the tree out of the garage and decorates. Outside, she makes snow angels, and remembers when she believed in Santa Claus. On Christmas morning, Melinda receives charcoal pencils and a drawing pad from her parents. They’ve noticed she’s been drawing. She wants to tell her parents what happened that night last summer, and nearly does. But a snowball grows in her throat, and she can’t tell them what she too vividly remembers about that night: That she came home to an empty house. That she showered until the hot water was gone. That she lay sleepless in bed. That she heard her parents come home, separately. “How can I talk to them about that night? How can I start?” she wonders.

Analysis: Second Marking Period, Part 1

(Go _______ (Fill in the Blank) – Winter Break)

The idea of democracy plays out ironically in this section. Students vote on the school’s ever-changing mascot name, but Melinda treats this development with a flippancy that indicates she finds opinions on the mascot’s name to be superficial. The chapter entitled “First Amendment” is ironic because though Mr. Neck invites students to exercise their right to free speech in a debate, he immediately attempts to silence student David Petrakis for disagreeing with his opinions. David’s act of standing up to Mr. Neck’s bullying symbolizes the courage it requires to speak out against injustice. When David metaphorically silences Mr. Neck by bringing a tape recorder to class it creates a powerful symbol of a person's right to take their voice back from those who wish to silence them. It also parallels Melinda’s internal struggle to find her own voice to speak about the trauma she has endured and bring those who harmed her to justice.

Melinda’s desire to tell someone about what happened to her grows in these chapters. In art class, Melinda places a piece of tape over Barbie’s mouth on her turkey sculpture, symbolizing both her desire to speak and her inability to do so. In the next scene, Melinda dissects an apple and discovers one of the seeds is sprouting into an apple tree, symbolizing her own desire to grow strong enough to speak out. The most direct example of this growing desire to speak occurs when her parents gift her with art supplies at Christmas. This act of understanding and attention creates a safe emotional space for Melinda to consider revealing her secret. However, the flood of traumatic memories from that evening override her desire, indicating she is not yet capable of speaking about what happened to her.