At school Melinda is befriended by a new girl Heather, only to later be ditched for ‘the Marthas’ a group of popular girls.
She becomes more depressed (Melinda is probably suffering from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder) and begins to skip school and frequently challenges parental and authority figures, who see her silence simply as attention seeking behaviour.
There are also literary parallels with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), which Melinda is studying in English. Hester Prynne, the central character of The Scarlet Letter, like Melinda is a social outcast. Melinda also has a poster of author / poet Maya Angelou in her closet. Angelou was a outsider like Melinda and her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) had been banned by the school.
The novel is written in first person and almost reads like Melinda’s diary. Anderson uses a non-linear narrative with flashbacks disrupting the present. This fragmented narrative structure illustrates Melinda’s depressed state and the trauma she has suffered.
Also what is interesting is that Melinda works through her depression and PSTD herself without seeking professional help, although she does receive support from her lab partner David Petrakis and her art teacher Mr. Freeman.
This coming-of-age problem novel is about a young woman finding her own voice, and speaking up and allowing the truth to set her free. It is a powerful piece of writing for a debut novel.
In 2004 a film version directed by Jessica Sharzer starring Kristin Stewart screened at the Sundance Film Festival and screened on Showtime and Lifetime the following year.