Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. Harper Teen, 2012 (reprint). ISBN 978-0064472135 144 pp $9.99
Shawn, a teen with severe cerebral palsy that leaves him incapable of controlling his own muscles, can’t eat, speak or move. His doctors tell his parents that there is a chance that he is aware, and not retarded, but Shawn can’t speak up to tell them truth–that he is, indeed very aware, that he thinks about girls, that he loves barbeque potato chips, that he knows how to read. He remembers every single thing he ever heard or saw, and lives a rich and vivid existence in his mind.
The seizures he has allow him to travel out of his body and run, walk, swim and fly. He lives in the cultural hub of Seattle, and is surrounded by a patient family who love him. Except for his dad, who is divorced from them. A writer with a Pulitzer award for the poem he wrote about his son, he always had trouble handling Shawn’s condition, and now he’s on a euthanasia kick and speaking out on letting go those who have a poor quality of life and can’t snuff themselves. Is he out to murder his own son? Shawn, clever at putting clues together, sure thinks so–and he doesn’t have a way to let anyone else know.
Trueman, himself a dad to a child with cerebral palsy, writes a spellbinding novel about a teen trapped in his own body. It is a fascinating view from a voice not yet heard. Shawn is a bright and witty young man, surprisingly unbitter, and as descriptive narrator really conveys to unknowing readers what this situation could be like. In one heart-wrenching scene, he dreams he visits his father and talks with him for the first time, and is able to tell his father he loves him and plea for his own life. The reader must decide if Shawn’s father is going to follow through with his plan or not in a Frank Stockton-like ending.
An excellent book, with possibilities for discussion and/or raising awareness of differently abled people.