Summary and Analysis
Fourth Marking Period, Postprom"-"Final Cut""
On the Monday after prom, the whole school is buzzing with prom gossip. Heather does not go to school because her decorations were horrible and everyone is criticizing her about them. Melinda hears through the grapevine that Rachel dumped Andy at the prom. He was groping her on the dance floor and when she told him to back off, he got angry. She left him and spent the rest of the night with her foreign exchange student friends.
In algebra class, Melinda has the startling realization that she no longer wants to hide in her janitor's closet. She goes there one last time after school to take her drawings and books. After she finishes cleaning up and she is getting ready to leave, someone pushes her back into the closet and shuts the door; it's Andy. He yells at her for telling Rachel about the rape and begins to attack her. She pushes him away and he comes at her again, pushing her against the countertop. She bashes the mirror on the wall with her turkey sculpture, breaking the mirror and enabling her to grab a shard of glass. She wields it at Andy, screaming all the while, and he backs off. The girls' lacrosse team, having heard Melinda's screams, pound against the door. She unlocks it, and one of them goes for help.
On the last day of school, Melinda stays late to put the finishing touches on her tree project. Mr. Freeman is working on a new painting, of a sunrise. Some seniors stop by to say goodbye to him and one of them tells Melinda she hopes she is okay. Since her latest altercation with Andy, she has regained her reputation and people respect her — even Rachel has called her. Melinda is happy with her tree, because it looks alive and real. When she finishes, Mr. Freeman tells her she has earned an A+. He says he can tell she has had a rough year and Melinda decides to finally tell him about it.
By the novel's end, Anderson has shown how much Melinda has grown through her ability to stand up to Andy and her completion of her tree project. First, in her altercation with Andy, Melinda's behavior demonstrates how she has changed over the semester. Whereas when he raped her, she remained paralyzed and silent, now she screams and defends herself. When Melinda holds a shard of glass up to Andy's neck, he cannot speak. At that moment, Melinda and Andy are in reversed roles: Melinda now has power over Andy — but unlike Andy's power over her, hers is built on self-defense rather than a desire to hurt others.
Additionally, Melinda's successful completion of her tree in art class demonstrates the transformation she has undergone through the course of her freshman year. Recall the many stages of her tree project — from being able to draw only dead trees, to trying to create a perfect one. Now, she has created a tree that has wounds as well as new growth. Thus, Melinda's final iteration of the tree is the one that fully represents her: she has suffered, but she has not stopped growing. Through completion of the tree, and her decision to share her story with Mr. Freeman, Melinda is finally free of her own demons and able to appreciate her life again.