Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel loves the taste of smoked oysters and his mother's gentle hugs. Unfortunately, it's impossible for Shawn to feed himself or to hug his mom back. Shawn has cerebral palsy, a condition he has had since birth that has robbed him of all muscle control. He can't walk, talk, or even focus his eyes on his own. But despite all these handicaps, despite the frustration of not being able to communicate, Shawn is still happy to be alive: "Somehow all the things I think about and remember turn to joy... favorite movies... pinecones... chocolate pudding... the scent of Comet in a stainless steel sink.... Life can be great, even for me. Even for me." That is why he panics when he begins to suspect that his father is thinking of killing him. Shawn knows that his father is trying to be kind; he imagines that his son's life is an endless torment. His dad has no idea of the rich life that Shawn lives inside his head. And Shawn, helpless and mute, has no way of telling him.

This was our February book club pick. This was a very short book-- maybe 150 pages or so. I, surprisingly, really liked this book. It was thought-provoking and heartbreakingly moving. I loved Shawn. He was a wonderfully real character. The author of this book, Terry Trueman, actually has a child with cerebral palsy and it made the book that much more real for me. He knows what he is talking about--he knows what life is like, he knows the struggles and hardships and he knows the joys. I loved that Shawn wasn't a vegetable--he had thoughts and feelings and knew what was going on. I think the character was very well written. All in all, it was a sad story--his dad's thought-processes and reasoning, Shawn knowing what was going to happen and not being able to tell anyone, and the ending really surprised me. I would recommend this book, most definitely. I thought it was a fantastic, but as I said, sad read.

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