Prior to getting Life Happens Next in the mail unexpectedly, I had never heard of Stuck In Neutral by Terry Trueman which is kind of a travesty since it’s a pretty good book and I would have missed out on it. Published in 2000, Stuck In Neutral is a Printz honor book about fourteen year old Shawn McDaniel who believes his dad may be plotting to kill him.
That got your attention right? So Shawn is hilarious, he remembers everything he’s ever heard and oh yeah, he has cerebral palsy — a very, very severe case. Frankly, I did not know anything about cerebral palsy before reading Stuck In Neutral but basically Shawn is trapped in his body. He has zero muscle control and can’t vocalize, thus he can’t communicate with the world. Everyone thinks that because he can’t communicate he is profoundly developmentally delayed. Alas, Shawn is a secret genius.
Trueman wrote Stuck In Neutral in Shawn’s first person perspective which is quite a unique view. Shawn has these witty, interesting observations on life and death and the people around him. Honestly, I enjoyed reading his thoughts and analysis.
It’s also kind of sad to imagine as a girl who is privileged in that I am not differently abled, what it is like for Shawn, being unable to tell the world the he is a genius, wants to live, and for the love of God, stop using baby talk to speak to him. Like, can you imagine being treated a different way, as though you were a vegetable or thought of as a hassle by your family? I know that would really bother me not even being able to blink out my thoughts, having no control at all.
Stuck In Neutral is a quick, readable book. I think it would honestly be a great pick for a mainstreamed English classroom, as the reading level isn’t particularly difficult but there is a lot to be analyzed and discussed in the way of ethics, themes and narrative technique.
Disclosure: Borrowed from the library.
Other reviews of Stuck In Neutral by Terry Trueman:
Fictitious Musings – “I highly recommend this brilliant read to all ages.”
My Tower Of Books – “I will be thinking about it for a long time to come.”