This book is the story of Maleeka Madison, who is a student at McClenton middle School.Maleeka is a very smart girl who had the chance to go to a better school, but she ‘chose’ this one by her refusal to communicate when she ‘interviewed’ at the other school. The story revolves around her trials and tribulations, which is that she’s the butt of racist comments from people of her own race simply because she’s blacker than they are! She’s also bullied relentlessly by Charlese, a spoiled brat of a girl who’s in serious need of a reprimanding and detention. But that is not the end of her problems. She is trying desperately to draw an identity for herself at the same time fighting low self esteem. She fights hard to keep it all together.After the death of her father and the subsequent mental break down of her mother, which is caused by the grief of loosing her husband, she has very little support to make good decisions.
And her life turns upside down with the entry of Miss Saunders. Miss Saunders has a blotch across her face due to which she has faced a lot of rude comments and remarks, yet she surfaced as a victor since she didn’t let her looks decide her life or her opinion about herself. She serves as a mirror to Maleeka’s struggle against the burden of low self-esteem that many black girls face when they’re darker skinned. Miss Saunders is tough and through this, Maleeka learns to stand up to tough-talking Charlese. Maleeka learns to accept herself and love herself for what she is. Maleeka learns to identify her many beautiful qualities through Miss Saunders, like good writing skills.
She gains self confidence and speaks up against Charlese, thereby releasing herself from bullying and being mocked at. Maleeka realises her own worth and truly sparkles in the end.
Well, this is one of the books that strikes a cord with you as you read it. It did with me because I too have experienced some sort of bullying, and have faced self esteem issues. Its not easy as a teenager to be ridiculed or be mocked at. Everyone wants to be accepted as they are, irrespective of the differences. But the society is divided into the “IN” crowd and the “OUTSIDERS”. And the struggle to fit into the “IN” crowd results in image issues and lack of confidence.It can break a person if not dealt deftly and promptly. Very rare do adults understand the inner conflicts faced by a teenager. Luck has it that a few are blessed with parents or teachers who identify this and come up with solutions for the conflicts. The issues can drown a person into depression or lead to personality disorder. And if you find help like Maleeka did in Miss Saunders, one can emerge with confidence.
I remember being ridiculed for wearing glasses and having acne over my face. It was hard to even sit and have lunch among classmates. Their eyes used to bore down, sneering at me. But my wonderful teachers like Mr.Santosh Joseph, Miss Nancy Victor, Mr.Salil ,Mrs.Lily Jacob,Mr.Chopra,Mrs.Brinda Nair,Mrs McClaren…and many more who helped me see my worth beyond my looks . They helped me get up whenever I was knocked down. At every stage a blessed angel was there to help me see myself for what I am.
Every one at some stage in his/her life has faced this doubt about themselves, and those who haven’t kudos to you. But those who have been sidelined for their looks will definitely strike a chord with this book. We are all unique and special in our own different ways. No two people are alike.So celebrate the difference and revel in the them. Love yourself because there is no one like you.