Stuck In Neutral Terry Trueman Book Review

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.

Stuck In Neutral Terry Trueman Book Cover

Stuck In Neutral

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.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Oh wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before. I mean, yeah, it’s not like I’ve been looking for it but I kind of figured it would have popped up on my radar. My cousin has CP and seeing my aunty persevere with her is so inspiring. I remember hearing her talk about the first time she learned to kiss, like a proper kiss with puckered lips not just plunking an open mouth on someone’s face. Thanks for reviewing this book, I can’t wait to pick it up myself.

    • It’s a great read, Claire and I am pretty surprised about not having heard of it before either, considering it’s a Printz honor book and all. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be your cousin or your aunt. Just learning to give a kiss is amazing.

  2. Yep, you got my attention alright! I can’t imagine going through what Shawn has as well as dealing with the idea that his dad might kill him, it sounds awful but like a very educational read too – great review, April.

    • Thanks! 🙂 Parts are sort of hard/awful to read, but at the same time, you really get a sense of varying ethical gray area and motivations for each of the characters. Although it is a FAST read, it’s very well done.

  3. This is getting added to my to-read list. I spent quite a bit of my teaching placement working in the Gains classroom, and I think it’s important for those who work with children on a regular basis to read these kinds of books to remind us of the people behind the disability.

    • Oh, wow. I didn’t know that was what you did for your teaching placement. And yes, this book is an important reminder to treat all people with humanity regardless of disability.

  4. I was introduced to Stuck in Neutral in one of my Masters courses that focused on children’s and YA lit, but I still haven’t read it. We have quite a few students in our building with different types of physical disabilities who are often looked at (by students) as being less than them. I’ll have to get a copy of this book to read over the summer so I can talk about it next school year.

  5. Agreed on everything you said! I read this one in college because of a YA literature course I took. The follow-up from his brother’s perspective is pretty good too. Interesting to see how his brother feels about everything.

    • I will have to check out Cruise Control after BEA. It’s weird, I have no review pile guilt about these books because they are so short and so quick to read. Plus, I feel like I learn a lot from them.

  6. Wow! What a great premise! I’d never heard of this title either but it sounds awesome! I’m always so impressed with what other people come up with for stories and I’d never know about them if not for your blog so thanks for sharing them!

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