The Ecology Club wins their battle against the tiger mascot and the Student Council holds a school-wide vote to determine a new one. The choices are the Bees, the Icebergs, the Hilltoppers, or the Wombats.
Melinda’s parents instruct her to get extra help from teachers after school. Instead, Melinda uses the time to decorate her closet. She covers the mirror with a picture of Maya Angelou and sweeps and mops the floors. In an effort to please the portrait of Angelou, Melinda brings several books from home. However, Melinda remains mostly wrapped up in her own thoughts. She is finding it increasingly difficult to speak. Her jaw is always tense and her throat is dry. As hard as she tries to dump the memory of the night of the party, it stays with her.
On Job Day at Merryweather, Melinda is asked to complete a test that about her desires and goals. She is informed afterwards that she should consider a career in forestry, firefighting, communications, or mortuary science. Heather, on the other hand, is excited to learn that she should become a nurse, and immediately starts to plan how she will do so.
One day, Mr. Neck angrily marches into the classroom and writes “Immigration” on the board. He then proceeds to explain to the students that his family has been in the United States for over two hundred years and have all been good Americans. He tells the class that his son can not get a job as a firefighter. He is certain that it is reverse discrimination. He assigns a topic of debate: “America should have closed her borders in 1900.” Discussion ensues until one brave students ventures to question the qualifications of Mr. Neck’s son. Mr. Neck promptly ends the discussion. David Petrakis, however, stands up and refuses to let the conversation die. He tells Mr. Neck that the debate was racist and xenophobic, picks up his books, and leaves the room.
When Thanksgiving rolls around, Melinda knows her mother will be busy with sales at Effert’s. Despite the certain possibility of store emergencies, however, Melinda’s mother always wants to cook a Thanksgiving meal. She is interrupted by phone calls from the store several times and the turkey is ruined. When Melinda’s mom leaves for the store, her dad attempts to salvage the turkey and take over the meal. He fails at making a turkey soup and instead he and Melinda call for pizza.
Melinda feels sorry for the unused turkey and digs the bones out of the trashcan. She brings them to art class the following week. Mr. Freeman is excited by the turkey bones and allows Melinda to stay after class to continue working on her project. He lets Ivy, Melinda’s artistic, former friend, stay as well. Melinda glues the bones to a block of wood and places the head of a Barbie doll on top. Mr. Freeman and Ivy both admire her creation.
Melinda’s biology class begins to study reproduction. They start their exploration of the topic by cutting up apples and examining the seeds. The apples remind Melinda of a family trip to an orchard when she was younger and when her family was happier. Melinda discovers a sprouted seed in her apple and gets extra credit when she points it out.
During the week before winter break both students and teachers seem tired of school. David Petrakis brings a tape recorder to history class. Although Mr. Neck teaches the class in a straightforward manner because he’s being recorded, he glares at David the entire time. David Petrakis’ parents have hired a lawyer who is threatening to sue the school district and Mr. Neck for multiple reasons, including civil rights violations. After the tape-recorded class, the lawyer arranges an agreement that allows David to bring a video recorder to class, which prevents Mr. Neck from giving him the evil eye.
Heather convinces Melinda to attend the Winter Assembly with her. The Marthas did not invite Heather to sit with them and Heather tries not to show her disappointment. She gives Melinda a pair of bell earrings for Christmas and Melinda realizes that she must buy Heather a gift as well. She decides to buy her a friendship necklace. During the assembly, the principal announces that new school mascot will be the Wombats. Melinda takes pleasure in the idea that the cheerleaders will struggle to find a word to rhyme with “wombat.”
Two days before Christmas, Melinda’s mom leaves her a note telling her that she can drag the Christmas tree out of the basement if she would like. While setting up the tree, Melinda muses that small children are what make Christmas fun. Her parents gave up on Christmas when she stopped believing in Santa Claus. Melinda claims that they would have divorced by now had she not been born. Melinda looks outside at the snow-covered backyard and gets the sudden urge to make a snow angel. As she lies on the snowy ground, Melinda remembers a time when her parents were happier and when she believed in Santa Claus.
For Christmas, Melinda’s parents give her a sketchpad with charcoal pencils. Melinda is surprised and happy that they had noticed her recent interest in drawing. She tears up and almost tells them her secret. Her secret, however, also implicates her parents. The night of the party, Melinda came home instead of sleeping at Rachel’s house. Her parents had not been expecting her and neither of them was at home when she arrived. Her mom came home around two in the morning and her dad at dawn. They had not been together. Melinda does not know a way to bring up her attack with her parents without also addressing their activities on that same night.
Melinda's sore throat and lip-biting habit are symbols of her increased internal distress. She is finding it more difficult to speak because she is gradually slipping into a deeper depression, and her mental state is now actually affecting her physical. After seeing IT in the hallway, she cannot help but remember the party in August. Her attempt to dump the memory fails, and she finds her janitor's closet the perfect place to go when the memory haunts her, continuing the image of the closet as a place where Melinda hides her secret. She covers the mirror in the closet, because she does not want to see the version of herself that must hide in a closet. She places over it a poster of Maya Angelou, an author who struggled with her own trauma and depression after being raped at the age of eight.
Job Day paints a stark contrast between Melinda and Heather. While Heather is excited by and embraces her Job Day result (that she should be a nurse), Melinda is unable to connect with any of hers. She is too depressed to imagine what she may want to do in the future. Her inability to connect with a future version of herself is starkly emphasized when she thinks, “Maybe I’ll be an artist if I grow up” (78). The phrase “when I grow up” is so clichéd that her misuse of it is glaring and shows just how incapable of growing up she feels.
There is also a big difference between Melinda and her lab partner, David Petrakis. David is smart, outspoken, and stands up for what he believes. He seems the type that should be bullied, but is not. This is something that Melinda admires. When David challenges Mr. Neck, Melinda is impressed because she wishes she were as confident and eloquent as David is. He becomes a role model for Melinda. He is the first person to show Melinda that speaking up can have a positive outcome, and that even a freshman can have control over his authority figures, and over his life.
David continues to be a role model and symbol of hope for Melinda when he brings the tape recorder to class. In not allowing Mr. Neck to bully him into backing down, he exemplifies the strength that can come from speaking up. Witnessing this is key to Melinda finding the strength to find her voice and in doing so take agency over her own life, instead of being stuck in the role of the victim indefinitely.
Melinda's problematic home life becomes more clear after the family's failed Thanksgiving. Melinda brings the turkey bones to school in an attempt to make the memory of the holiday less bleak. It works. Her project with turkey bones is the first one to generate legitimate praise from Mr. Freeman. It also gives Melinda and Ivy a way to reconnect after the disintegration of their friend group, and it is the first time she uses her voice, in this case, artistic voice, to hint to those around her that she is going through something serious.
By Christmas, Melinda is so lonely that she thinks of herself as a disappointment of a child. By saying that her parents would probably be separated had she not been born, Melinda is both commenting on the shaky state of her family life, which doesn’t provide her the security she needs to deal with what happened to her, and blaming herself for her parents' marital issues. She pulls out the Christmas tree alone, another example of her universal isolation. When she makes a snow angel and remembers past Christmases, the reader understands that Melinda's depression does not simply stem from the party over the summer. All aspects of her life, including her family life, have changed. This is evident from both her description of the night of the party and from her negative reaction to her father's workload. Her parents are less happy and communicative, causing Melinda distress and loneliness.