When it was first published in 2010, Out of My Mind was a bit of a sensation. The story of Melody, an eleven-year-old with cerebral palsy determined to show how smart she was captured the hearts and minds of millions.
There are many books like Out of My Mind that tell a similar story, but Melody’s voice was one of the first to resonate with children and parents around the world. Imagine having lots to say, but being unable to communicate it in a way the neurotypical can understand?
Out of My Mind is a wonderful look into what it might be like inside the mind of someone unable to connect in the same ways as most. And if you’ve already read Melody’s story, we can recommend similar titles.
8 Books like Out of My Mind
A Step Toward Falling, by Cammie McGovern
Would you be brave enough to step in and stop someone unable to defend themselves from being assaulted? That is the premise for A Step Toward Falling.
Like Out of My Mind, this middle-grade novel interrogates non-disabled attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people.
The story follows Emily, a teenager who thinks she always does and says the right things. Belinda is another student at Emily’s school. She has developmental disabilities and is generally very popular.
When Emily witnesses some football jocks sexually assault Belinda at a football game, she tries to alert a teacher, but he dismisses her and tells her to just watch the game. Emily freezes. What happens next is a well-framed story that deals with sexual assault and societal preconceptions towards disabled people.
Like Emily, the reader is quickly challenged to think and ask: what would I do?
The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin
Books like Out of My Mind love to tug at your heartstrings. The Thing About Jellyfish was a 2015 National Book Award finalist and pulled at all the emotions.
When her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy stops speaking. Retreating into her own imagination, she becomes certain that a rare jellyfish sting was responsible. After all, bad things don’t just happen for no reason. Or do they?
This is a really good book to give to any middle-grade reader, not least because it talks a lot about grief and how different people deal with it. Scientific facts are sprinkled into the story and Benjamin does a great job of framing Suzy’s grief within her quest to meet the world’s foremost expert on jellyfish. A tear-jerking read.
Restart, by Gordon Korman
Throwing you in at the deep end is a fun way to begin a story, and books similiar to Out of My Mind revel in using this device. Restart is the story of Chase, a football star at his local school. Chase’s memory literally went out of the window along with his body.
He doesn’t remember the fall, nor hitting his head. In fact, Chase doesn’t remember anything when he wakes up in hospital. There are people ready to help him, along with others ready to remind Chase about things he doesn’t want to remember, like how much of a bully he was to less popular kids.
Restart is a great book for adults, young or older. Not only does it play with the ‘what would you do if you had a clean slate?’ question, it examines the insecurities we all feel in life.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Historical fiction is a fascinating genre, and there are some books like Out of My Mind that use it well.
Number the Stars takes place in 1943 and follows ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen who lives in Copenhagen along with her best friend Ellen Rosen. Ellen has recently moved in with the family, pretending to be one of the Johansen’s as the Nazis forcibly relocate the Jews in Denmark.
Together the two friends deal with food shortages, school and life under NAZI occupation. And then Annmarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
Another great story for middle-grade readers beginning to learn more about history and whether you would be brave enough to help someone unable to defend themselves.
Are you a Lois Lowry fan? Check out our list of books like The Giver!
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally cannot read. But Ally is very clever and has fooled every school into thinking that she’s just another disruptive student. Ally thinks she’s got everything covered, until her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, spots her creativity and fear.
With his help, Ally begins to learn that dyslexia is nothing to fear or be ashamed of. Books similiar to Out of My Mind are really good because they help readers of all ages learn more about how wonderfully different and smart we can all be.
Ally feels stupid at the start of Fish in a Tree, and her experiences will resonate with any reader with dyslexia. Hopefully, it will resonate with you too.
Rules, by Cynthia Lord
Books like Out of My Mind are a welcome necessity as we all continue to learn, grow and understand each other more. Anyone who knows what it’s like to live with someone on the autistic spectrum and the challenges and strengths they bring will find something that resonates in Rules.
Catherine just wants a normal life. Her entire family and home life revolves around her brother David. For years she’s tried to help her parents teach David the rules of life. Anything from explaining why you need to keep your trousers on in public, to the difference between a peach and an apple.
Catherine just wants David’s embarrassing behaviours to stop. But then she meets a paraplegic boy called Jason, and Kristi, a friend she’s always wanted. Soon, Catherine is left to question everything she thought she wanted, and whether normality is just a matter of perspective.
This is a really great story and a wonderful book to give to people wanting to learn more about the autistic spectrum.
Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Grief is hard for any child. For twelve-year-old Willow, it is nearly earth-shattering.
She has never found it easy to connect with anyone beyond her adoptive parents. A nature lover and pint-sized genius, Willow begins to navigate her way through grief in completely unexpected and joyful ways.
Books like Out of My Mind really do have you reaching for the tissue box, but that isn’t always a bad thing and Counting by 7s is no different.
When Willow loses her sense of balance, direction and meaning, she can’t even fall back on counting 7s, a way she’s always used to maintain stability. You can’t help but cheer Willow on as she uses her whip-smart mind to pick up the pieces and explore new ways of dealing with life.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
I found a copy of Wonder on a tube train in 2013. I think it was the Central line. Normally I would hand an abandoned book into the nearest lost property office, but the sticker on the front stopped me. The book was deliberately left on the train for someone else to find and read. So, I did.
There are titles similar to Out of My Mind that you think are just there to make you cry and not really think. Ten-year-old August Pullman – Auggie to his family – was born with a serious facial disfigurement that took umpteen operations just to enable him to breathe properly.
Now his parents want him to go to school with other kids and Auggie is afraid because of how he looks. What follows is a heartwarming tale of Auggie and his family as he begins to come out of his shell.
This book has received criticism for the lack of nuance in a disabled person’s experience. For example, wouldn’t Auggie feel annoyed for everyone being overly kind at school? Wouldn’t he want to be seen as just like all the other kids instead of constantly being made to feel different?
Despite this, it is hard not to feel warm at the end of Wonder, and whilst I agree that more nuance might have elevated this story higher, I dare your heart not to jump in joy.
If it’s life-affirming stories you want right now (and goodness knows we need some at the moment), then Out of My Mind and the books we’ve recommended, are a good place to start. Are they perfect accounts of the many different experiences of different people? Maybe not. But they are great stories that will make you think, laugh, and sometimes cry.
Are you looking for more books similiar to Out of My Mind? Have any recommendations that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!