Fifth-grader Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy. She can't walk, talk, feed herself, or even take herself to the bathroom. Because of this, she's consigned to a dismal special ed program where the students are subjected to a curriculum of no educational value (think nursery-rhyme CDs and pointless alphabet drills). What no one knows is that Melody has a photographic memory. She also has preferences and dreams. When Melody gets an assistive speaking device, her gifts and preferences become known. Her in-school aide and at-home caregiver join with Melody's parents in pushing for better education for her. More students, especially a classmate named Rose, begin to see Melody as a person. Melody learns to express and respect herself.
When Melody gets a coveted spot on the school quiz team, many kids and even the advising teacher initially assume she has used assistive technology to cheat, or that her aide gives her answers. They eventually learn better, and Melody performs well at matches. Readers will be gratified to see Melody's growth, as well as her realistic frustrations in dealing with CP.
This being said, Melody endures a horrible injustice based on her disability near the end of the book. Denied a great opportunity because of CP, she thinks she really might go "out of her mind." The way Melody's disability is handled, and this downer ending, will turn off many parents. However, Melody does rise above this and is eventually able to help someone in ways no one thought she could. In general, this is a bittersweet book, but well worth the read.