Melody Brooks is a ten-year-old girl who was born with cerebral palsy. Her parents have done everything they can to help her live a normal life, but life is often frustrating for Melody since she cannot speak, move, nor communicate her wishes. As a result, Melody has to fight to get her wishes. At age five, Melody is even diagnosed as "profoundly retarded and idiotic" by a doctor who suggests putting Melody in a nursing home. Despite this, Melody's mother enrolls her in Spaulding Street Elementary School to get the education she needs. However, the class she is put in is like a baby class, learning the same things every day, i. e. the alphabet. Melody is frustrated by this, due to having far superior knowledge but cannot speak or write. Her neighbor, Mrs. V., is a kind, but tough woman. She pushes Melody to do the best she can. When Melody was three, Mrs. V. was not impressed by Melody having to rely on her parents for everything. Because of this, Mrs. V. forced her to learn how to crawl and roll on the ground. She even taught Melody how to catch herself whenever she fell from her wheelchair. This helped Melody become self-sufficient, but she continues to be reliant on her parents to help feed her and help her go to the bathroom.
When Melody turns eight, her mother becomes pregnant. During this time, Melody overhears them talking about the new baby and their fears that it will suffer the same disabilities, causing her to feel ashamed. However, Melody is happy when the baby, Penny, is born perfectly healthy. Melody feels jealous as Penny grows and matures since she will never be able to do the things Penny can do. However, Melody loves her little sister, and the pleasures Penny brings to the family.
When Melody enters fifth grade, she has trouble communicating what she wants to everyone. She eventually learns of and gets a communication device that allows her to talk with other people. At school, her new teacher starts an inclusion program that allows the special needs students to participate in the standard classes. Melody also gets an aide, Catherine, to help her. Melody befriends Rose Spencer but is bullied by Molly and Claire, who believe that her disability makes her dumber than them. Even her teacher, Mr. Dimming, believes that Melody cannot participate, but is surprised that not only does Melody join, but passes a test exam of a trivia competition with a perfect score. She then participates in the qualifying exam to be part of the trivia competition and once again, surprises everyone when she makes the team.
Eventually, Melody helps the team win the qualifying competition to earn a trip to Washington D.C. for the national competition. However, on the day the group is to fly to Washington, Melody learns that her flight has been canceled due to weather, but that the rest of the team has made an earlier flight without her. The following day Melody insists on going to school, despite the fact that her mother is sick, tired, and frustrated. However, when Melody kicks, hits, and screams to warn her mother that Penny has slipped out of the house and is in the path of the car, her mother fails to understand, resulting in Penny being hit and injured. Melody feels guilty for not being able to warn her mother but learns that Penny will recover. On Monday, Melody's class apologizes for their lack of consideration towards her by giving her the ninth place trophy, hoping to reconcile with her. However, Melody forgives and laughs at them, destroys the trophy by accident, and heads out of the room. The next day, she and Catherine begin work on her autobiography, which begins with the first few lines of the book.