First Marking Period Summary
Last Updated on June 23, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 857
Melinda begins high school as an outcast; everyone is angry at her for calling the police during a party over the summer. Nobody, not even Melinda’s ex-best-friend, Rachel, has asked Melinda why she did what she did. At an assembly on the first morning of school, kids taunt Melinda and laugh at her. When Melinda catches Rachel’s eye, Rachel mouths “I hate you” across the room.
Melinda watches her old friends—Ivy, Nicole, and Rachel—join up with new cliques. Inwardly, Melinda mocks the little clans the other students form, but it bothers her that she is unwelcome in every group. The only friendly person is Heather, a new girl who is as socially isolated as Melinda is.
Melinda regards everything her teachers say as lies, including their assertions that they are willing to listen and help. In her mind, Melinda mocks the teachers, giving them unkind nicknames like Hairwoman and Mr. Neck. In return, many of the teachers treat Melinda with suspicion.
At lunch on the first day, Melinda realizes she has nowhere to sit. She panics. A kid throws food on her shirt and everyone laughs. Melinda flees the cafeteria and runs into Mr. Neck, who gives her a demerit for wandering the halls. Melinda does not speak up to defend herself. She assumes Mr. Neck would not listen.
Only art class makes Melinda happy. Her teacher, Mr. Freeman, says each student will spend a year making art on a single theme. Melinda likes the project but dislikes her theme, “tree,” which she draws at random. When she tries to get a different theme, Mr. Freeman says she is stuck with the one she has.
Through the first several weeks of school, Melinda’s isolation remains almost complete. She spends her free time napping and putting off homework. She develops the habit of chewing her lips, which end up sore and scabbed. Even at home, she is alone. Her parents communicate with her primarily through notes on the kitchen counter.
Melinda’s old friends Ivy and Nicole make no effort to talk to her. Rachel is actively cruel, and so are many of the older students. Melinda feels harassed by the other kids and by the teachers. One day when Mr. Neck chases after Melinda to talk about a missing piece of homework, she slips into an empty broom closet. Realizing that nobody uses it, she decides to make it her refuge.
Heather, the new girl, becomes Melinda’s friend by default because nobody else will speak to either of them. The two girls have little in common. Heather spends her time working out and building plans to attract more friends. One day Heather convinces Melinda to go to a school pep rally, where a group of strangers recognize Melinda from the party the summer before. The kids gang up on Melinda and abuse her for calling the police. Melinda has worked hard to forget that party. When the other kids bring it up so suddenly, she is overwhelmed by her memories of what happened that night—although she does not name what it was. As the school cheerleaders lead the crowd in a cheer, Melinda buries her face in her hands and screams. Nobody can hear her over the noise of the crowds. Kids pull Melinda’s hair and knock her down.
After the pep rally, nothing seems to go right for weeks. In art class, Melinda cannot paint trees to her satisfaction. On a day off from school, Heather shouts at Melinda for being so negative. Then Melinda’s parents receive her progress report and yell at her for her bad grades. In school, Melinda tries to work harder but cannot focus. Forced to stand up in front of the class to work out an algebra problem with Rachel, Melinda spaces out and gets laughed at by everyone.
In the midst of all this, Melinda’s happiest moments come when she is silent and alone. When her parents tell her she is not allowed to go out at Halloween, Melinda is glad for the excuse to stay home. She spends the evening in her room alone, reading Dracula.
Whenever Melinda goes near people, disaster follows. The kids in Spanish make fun of her because her name includes the word linda, which means pretty. The kids tell her she is ugly and call her “Me-no-linda.” Melinda toys with the idea that aliens abducted her on the night of the party. Perhaps her whole life now is an ugly psychological experiment.
Heather continues working hard to make friends, and eventually, she is accepted by a clique Melinda calls “the Marthas.” The Marthas wear expensive clothes and do volunteer work. They assign Heather the job of decorating the faculty lounge. Melinda helps, then flees when the Marthas arrive. Eavesdropping on their conversation, Melinda hears the girls making fun of her scabbed lips. She flees to the bathroom to cry.
Later, Melinda sees someone she calls “IT” in the halls. She is horrified to realize IT is a student at her school. When IT smiles at Melinda, she thinks she is going to throw up.