Summary and Analysis
First Marking Period, Cheerleaders"-"Acting""
At the pep rally, Melinda lists the names of the cheerleaders, giving some of them the names of Santa's reindeer, to ridicule them. She can't believe they can be seen as innocent and perky at the pep rally one day and the next day go to parties, get drunk, and have sex, while still maintaining the respect of their teachers and parents. As the rally ends, Melinda gets pushed down the bleachers.
In art class, Melinda struggles with forming her tree. She paints trees struck by lightning and half-dead trees, but is dissatisfied with her creations. Mr. Freeman continues to encourage her to use her emotions to guide her work.
On Columbus Day, Melinda goes to Heather's house because they have the day off from school. Melinda is jealous of Heather's room, how in its neatness it totally expresses Heather's personality whereas her own room doesn't express anything about her. As Heather whines about her lack of a social life and how at her old school she was involved in all sorts of school activities, she spills nail polish across her new carpet. Melinda tries to clean it up, then, tired of Heather's complaints, goes home without saying goodbye.
Melinda reveals her depression through her commentary on the cheerleaders; the metaphor of the trees she works on in art class; and by her feeling that she is always acting, as illustrated by her visit to Heather's house. First, Melinda uses naming to show how two-faced the cheerleaders are, expressing not only her distaste for what they represent, but also her desire to exert control on her experience of high school. First, by naming some of the cheerleaders after Santa's reindeer (Donner and Blitzen), Melinda mocks the cheerleaders and the myth about high school they represent — that it is a time of joy, vitality, and exuberance, which high school is definitely not for Melinda. By ridiculing the cheerleaders, Melinda is able to distance herself from them as well as dismantle the myth they represent — they are just as unreal as Santa's reindeer.
Secondly, Melinda's artwork is a metaphor for her inner turmoil. In many ways, the trees Melinda creates represent her sense of herself; and as the trees change throughout the novel, they mirror her inner transformations. For instance, at this point in Melinda's story, she feels dead inside, barely surviving, as represented by the half-dead trees she draws. Like her lightning-struck trees, she too has suffered a profound physical and emotional blow and is unable to face it and thus unable to heal.
Finally, Melinda has lost her sense of self, so she always feels as if she is putting on a performance when interacting with others. This is most clearly shown in these sections by her visit to Heather's house. Melinda sees Heather's bedroom as a perfect expression of Heather's personality — bland, neat, trying desperately to fit a certain image. Melinda's room doesn't express anything about herself, and Melinda is unable to come up with a plan to redecorate. Thus, her room symbolizes Melinda's relationship with herself — she does not know who she is, or who she is becoming.