The novel has a mood or tone of anxiety and tension, interspersed with fear, resignation and then relief. The complexity of the mood of the novel reflects the difficult challenges Melinda faces in finding her own identity after the attack, and dealing with the rejection of those around her.
The novel begins by communicating Melinda’s tension at beginning high school-
I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.
Writing in the present tense we empathise more with Melinda’s fear of being rejected by her friends, and we can pick up the trepidation she has-
I close my eyes. This is what I have been dreading. As we leave the last stop, I am the only person sitting alone.
There are flashes of humor, where we see the sort of girl Melinda was before the attack, and would be with support around her. She gives names to the teachers associated with their looks, and labels the ‘clans’ that make up the school community. Throughout this, though, we see a girl who is suffering-
I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.
I am Outcast.
It is through the art class and her work with Mr Freeman where there is some respite from the oppressive mood of the rest of the text. Here Melinda feels she has some scope, some possibility of emerging from the darkness-
Art follows lunch, like dream follows nightmare.
The tone changes to one of hope as Mr Freeman outlines what the lesson can do for the students-
This is where you can find your soul, if you dare. Where you can touch that part of you that you’ve never dared look at before.
Melinda realises that when she does express herself, she is happy, and it is unsurprising that it is Mr Freeman that she is finally able to speak to about the traumatic events of the summer.