Summary and Analysis
Fourth Marking Period, Fault!"-"Prom Preparation""
In gym class, the girls play tennis. Melinda is pretty good at the sport so she gets matched up with Nicole. They play a close game, and Melinda remembers how much she loves tennis and considers asking her dad to practice with her.
In art class one day, Ivy accidentally gets marking-pen ink on Melinda's shirt. The girls go to the bathroom to try to clean up Melinda's shirt. Melinda removes her shirt and while Ivy scrubs it, Melinda stands in a toilet stall reading graffiti on the walls. She asks Ivy why she said Andy Evans was a creep, and Ivy says she has heard he will sleep with anyone. Melinda asks for one of Ivy's markers and starts a comment thread on the wall. She makes a list of "guys to stay away from" and puts Andy at the top of it.
The school is aflutter with talk of senior prom. Andy invites Rachel to go with him, making Melinda sick to her stomach. Heather shows up on Melinda's doorstep a few days before the prom, whining about her life with the Marthas. The Marthas have made her responsible for decorating for prom and she begs Melinda to help her. Melinda says no.
Melinda experiences three triumphs in these sections that foreshadow her forthcoming ability to speak up about what happened to her. The first triumph Melinda experiences is in gym class. During her tennis match with Nicole, Melinda is able to not only productively channel her anger, but also to experience the thrill of being good at something. Through her near defeat of Nicole, Melinda starts thinking about the future and tentatively makes plans to ask her dad to practice with her. Recall that for much of the novel, Melinda doubted her ability to survive ninth grade, let alone make even minimal plans. Thus, her decision to pursue tennis as a hobby indicates her new engagement with life.
Melinda's second triumph is her note written in the girls' bathroom stall. By writing down that Andy Evans is a guy to stay away from, Melinda moves one step closer to explaining just exactly why he is someone to avoid. Additionally, in this same scene, Melinda talks to Ivy about Andy. By hearing Ivy's negative opinion of Andy, Melinda understands that she is not alone in hating him and that if and when she decides to speak up she will find allies in the other girls whom Andy has also hurt.
Melinda's third triumph is over her unhealthy friendship with Heather. When Heather comes crawling back to Melinda, begging her for decorating help, Melinda realizes how crazy her friendship with Heather was. For instance, Heather tells Melinda she is smart for staying out of the social fray, even though it was Heather's abandonment of Melinda that kept her so far removed from social activity. Melinda sees through Heather's superficiality and refuses to help. In the past Melinda would have silently acquiesced to whatever Heather demanded. Melinda's ability to say no out loud suggests she has regained both her self-confidence and her sense of self-worth.