Book of the Week - Stuck in Neutral

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel is a genius. He has a photographic memory that could beat anyone's, to the point that he could recite entire movies from memory. And therein lies the bad news. Shawn cannot speak, he cannot move, he can't control a single muscle. In fact, he is so unable to control himself that no one knows that Shawn is a genius. Oh, and his dad is trying to kill him. Shawn gets more and more concerned as his dad starts talking about putting Shawn "out of his misery".

Told in first person, this story really puts the reader into the shoes of a kid who is trapped within himself. Reader's can experience the frustration as Shawn desperately wants to say, "Dad, I love you." How much Shawn loves his brother, his mother. How he appreciates life and wishes that someone, anyone, would realize that he is in there. It's hopeful, enlightening, and terrifying.

As far as my criteria goes, this books did a good job. There were no stereotypes, in fact I would say this book broke some. The labels were only by the character and were never too much or too often. Shawn definitely speaks for himself. The interactions between Shawn and those around him are believable. After all, if you thought the kid in the same room with you had the mental capacity of a four-month-old, would you be willing to talk about anything? If someone was messing with your brother, even if you thought he was a vegetable, how would you defend him? The story itself was about the disability, but it is more than that. It is also about wanting to be noticed, of how love trumps everything, and genius is not always obvious. Finally, all the characters were well-rounded.

Overall, the book was great. Short and sweet, with an ending that left me frustrated but not angry.

But. You knew it was coming. I had one problem. It is a big one. No one knows if Shawn is secretly a genius. Now, there are kids like Shawn, those without the ability to be mobile, some people who have been in accidents experience the same thing. It is often referred to as Locked In Syndrome. Here's the thing though. They can do tests to see if there is brain activity in patients like this. If his parents suspected (as is usually the case with these kinds of people), someone would have eventually done a test. They would have called Shawn's name and seen the brain activity and known that there was more than just a babies brain inside there. They would see from the brain activity that he is alive and thinking.

So as well done as the book was, I don't think a parent would resort to killing his child (or thinking about it) before doing such a test.