Why does Melinda wish she were in fifth grade again?

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As a traumatized freshman in high school, Melinda is viewed and treated as an outcast after an incident that took place over the summer. While Melinda was attending a high school party over the summer, she was raped by Andy Evans. Immediately after she was raped, Melinda called the police and the officers broke up the party. Instead of telling her close friends the real reason why she called the police, Melinda slips into a long period of silence. Once high school begins at the end of summer, Melinda is ostracized by her peers and her best friends abandon her to join other cliques.

In the second marking period, Melinda runs into Andy Evans at school, who seductively asks if she wants a bite of his donuts. After fleeing the school, Melinda decides to go to the mall, where she comments that she wishes she was back in fifth grade. Melinda says,

I want to be in fifth grade again. Now, that is a deep dark secret, almost as big as the other one. Fifth grade was easy—old enough to play outside without Mom, too young to go off the block. The perfect leash length. (Anderson, 51)

Essentially, Melinda desires to return to a time when life was normal, routine, and free. After being sexually assaulted and ostracized by her peers, Melinda wishes to go back to when she was popular, cheerful, and carefree.

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